Friday, March 23, 2012

A Picture Really is Worth A Thousand Words-or More!


Over Thanksgiving and Christmas this past year some of us who'd gathered together spent time going through family photo albums. We had an aunt who devoted hours to organizing the photos chronologically by family. The photos represented a smorgasbord of family members-all ages and all situations at all times of the year.

The attached photo is one I had to have. I figure it was probably taken by my aunt with her Brownie camera if Brownie cameras were even around then. I carefully removed the photo from the album and later scanned it and then returned it for others to enjoy. The photo is an amazing snapshot of an amazing moment, showing my grandparents actually sitting down and relaxing, enjoy a summer picnic on the side lawn of their farmhouse surrounded by daughters and their husbands and Pepper the dog.

What I didn't notice at first was what was in the background, sitting in the field between the barn and the house. Looking closer I was thrilled to find our chicken coop clubhouse-the clubhouse I write about all the time. Even more amazing was the fact that the chicken coop was still a chicken coop in that photo. My cousins and I hadn't taken it over with the remains of an abandoned one-room schoolhouse situated just up the road. We hadn't replaced the chickens with desks and chalkboards and books at that point. This was the first time I'd seen the coop as a chicken coop. Quite exciting!

Behind the chicken coop you'll see my grandfather's barn. It's from memories of playing inside, outside and around that old barn that I drew upon when writing "The Reindeer Keeper." You'll also see the pipe held up high on poles used to carry water from the pumphouse to the barn. Sometimes we'd jump up and hold on to it and try to move along it by crossing our hands over and over as far as we could. I never made it very far because I didn't like the feeling when I'd let go and crash down into the field of picky weeds-plus the pipe was always freezing cold even in the summer heat.

This picture is truly worth a thousand words-or more for it combines the barn I played in and later wrote about in a Christmas story; the chicken coop where we spent endless hours playing and pretending; and our grandparents who worked so hard seven days a week-shown sitting and enjoying a summer day.

Digital cameras have transformed the art of taking pictures but for preserving memories I think an old Brownie camera was better. When finished with a roll of film, you'd roll it up tight careful not to expose it and take it to be developed. Then you'd have to wait-and wait a little longer until you could go back and pick up your glossy photos. The anticipation leading up to that moment was exhilarating! It was such fun opening the envelope and seeing which pictures made it through the process.

But the best part of using the Brownie was the fact that you'd have the photos in your hand-to sift through and pass around and look at whenever you wanted to. They weren't inside a computer. And if you were lucky, at some point, you or a favorite aunt could sit down and fill photo albums with pictures of family members-of all ages in all situations at all times of the year to ramble through for generations to come.

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