Photos have always been really important to me. It didn’t matter if I took them or someone else did, if they were technically “good” or quick, blurry snapshots – I’ve loved them. While I’m not terribly hoard-ish (yes, that’s a word; because I said so) in most areas of my life, I do hoard photos. I’ve got boxes of old pictures, some containing frame-worthy gems, others with envelope after envelope (from the stores that used to offer 1-Hr Photo Development! – remember those?!) of out-of-focus images, often in duplicate or even triplicate, of people and places whose names I can no longer recall.
Doesn’t matter. They’re photos and, like books or chocolate or Sauvignon Blanc, I simply cannot bear to part with them. This may seem odd or at least not terribly practical, given the amount of space that the physical photos take up in my basement and the digital photos take up on my hard drive(s)… but the pictures make me happy. All it takes is a few moments sifting through image after image to completely lift my spirits, make me gasp (in both good and bad ways), and make me smile. Which is also like books or chocolate or Sauvignon Blanc. I may be onto something.
GranMary came to visit a couple of weekends ago, and we had a really delightful time with her. As I’ve mentioned, little gives me more joy than seeing our family and friends just soak up my children, and GranMary’s visit provided plenty of opportunities for that. I loved the way that Annie and she giggled together on Friday night before Ella got home from swimming – a little time, just the two of them. I loved how I was awakened on Saturday morning by the girls’ raucous laughter from GranMary’s bed, after the girls had crawled in with glee. I loved how she and Ella cuddled in to watch one of the Harry Potter movies while Annie was at a Girl Scouts outing – a little time, just the two of them.
I loved watching Mary and my grandmother chatting away over lunch. I loved a chilly Saturday afternoon spent inside, with the girls scarcely leaving GranMary’s side as they did projects (she always brings some; it’s a highlight of her visits) and watched more Harry. I loved the opportunity to sit and talk with her after the girls had gone to bed, while Nick was at a party for his hockey team – a little time, just the two of us. I loved how GranMary gamely participated in our scavenger/egg hunt, seemingly unfazed by the dozens of children shrieking about our backyard in search of chocolate and money. (Then again, who could blame them?) I hated it when we said goodbye for another few months and Nick drove her back to the airport – a little time, just the two of them.
I hate that Bill is no longer here to come out and see us, but I love that Mary still does. I love that we’ve made our own relationship with her, in part because she is GranMary, but in part simply because she is herself, and we want her in our lives.
And Bill is not entirely absent from her visits; we talk about him all the time, wistfully, longingly, but almost always with laughter. This visit, GranMary surprised Ella and Annie with little photo books for each of them – pictures of them with Grandpa Bill. Many of the photos, I’d already seen, but some were new to me and they took my breath away. See, I thought I’d already sifted through my Memories Of Bill, had pored over everything I could recall, turning them over in my mind and reveling in their comfort… but here were moments that I’d never seen before. Memories that I never even knew existed.
It was amazing.
The girls loved their books, too. After going through each page, asking about every picture, smiling and laughing, I wasn’t sure what they’d do with them… But then I discovered that Annie had taken her book to school to share it with her friends, and that Ella keeps hers beside her bed. It seems that they’ve inherited my photo-loving gene (and the book-loving gene and most definitely the chocolate-loving gene; it remains to be seen what they think of Sauvignon Blanc).
Mary also brought a small collection of individual prints with her, which she gave to Nick and me – all pictures of Bill, most of them with us in one way or another. I’d seen nearly all of them, and cheerfully thumbed through the pile without really paying them too much mind… until I found this one and was stopped cold.
Bill and me, May 2013, laughing like nobody’s business
Looking at it, you might be thinking: that’s cute enough. You’re both laughing, ice cream seems to have been involved, and you look like you’re having fun. A nice picture… if you don’t count the faded smudge at the top of the photo (an errant finger? late afternoon sun?) or Bill’s compression socks or the way the cuff of my capris is practically cutting off the circulation in my calves.
I see those things, too, but I don’t care even one bit… because this is the only photo I have ever seen that contains just Bill and me. We have photos from our wedding (Nick’s and my wedding, not Bill’s and my wedding… Although I do have photos from Bill and Mary’s wedding…), from before our wedding, up North, downstate, with Ella and Annie, with Nick, with Mary – and many of them are delightful photos – yet none of them contains just Bill and me.
Believe me, I know. I looked. Hard.
Why this matters, I’m not sure. It’s not like there’s anything unspecial about photos containing other people, too. But somehow, it gives me incredible joy to have this photo of the two of us, obviously enjoying one another’s company, laughing and generally getting a kick out of life.
I hadn’t even known this photo existed, hadn’t known that Mary had surreptitiously snapped it a year ago during Bill’s last-ever visit. I’m so very glad that she did, though, and that she printed it out and gave it to us. It is, without question, one of the most wonderful – and unexpected – gifts I’ve ever received.
I can’t wait to stumble upon it again when I go through our photos (and eat chocolate and drink wine) and relive the memories of that day.
Nah, scratch that. This one’s going on the wall.
Joy that big should be shared, don’t you think?