With Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, I am reminded that on those rare occasions when all members of our little clan get together, at some point during the course of events, someone, usually me, invariably drags out the old family albums.
For some unfathomable reason, nothing seems to cause our daughters more hilarity than poring over my sacred collection of family pictures.
“Look at this!” one of them shrieks with laughter as all three roll about in hysterics.
“Can you believe Mum made us wear things like that?”
“What’s wrong with it?” I ask indignantly. “Plaid trousers were the fashion then. And anyway, aren’t ponchos making a come-back?”
For the life of me, I can’t understand why they find their items of childhood clothing so amusing.
Of course it was always impossible to take a sensible picture of our kids especially when they were together. Goofy expressions and bunny ears were the norm (still are) and nothing with which I could reasonably threaten them would induce the little stinkers to take my efforts seriously.
I admit there possibly were times when I may have caused them a certain amount of embarrassment; such as when I made them pose, one snowy Christmas Eve, as though gazing raptly out of our front-room window in search of Santa Claus; or when, during school open-house, when other kids were playing basketball with their parents in the gym or demonstrating their skills in the computer lab, I forced my child to take innumerable drinks at the water fountain in the hallway in order that I might capture the split second when the arcing liquid reached her open mouth.
But come on, guys! Give me some credit. How about all those times when I traipsed around in the mud at girl-scout camp taking endless snapshots of the fiendish little mites as they tried to put up their tents in the pouring rain or cheerfully toasted a thousand marshmallows over the blazing campfire.
Every dunk and spike on the basketball and volleyball court, every handstand, back-flip and somersault on the gymnastics mat, every pirouette, arabesque and plie on stage was sedulously captured on film, not to mention following the progress of the school band, camera in hand, as it confidently swung into action at half-time during football games or marched smartly down the local streets in one-hundred degree heat to the cheers of the crowd; a labor of love on my part, I promise you.
How different from the rigid portraits of my great-grandparent’s time. No-one moved a muscle and heaven forbid any of them should actually smile, although I suppose that was due more to the length of time that it took to get a good picture; one can only hold an expression of genteel amusement for so long.
I wonder what those solemn-faced ancestors would have made of today’s informal snapshots; pictures that, taken on the spur of the moment, captured for posterity the fleeting images of life’s rich tapestry.
I’m talking more specifically about the time we all donned fright wigs and enormous teeth or when the grandchildren wrapped grandma from head to toe in toilet paper while playing at ‘doctors’ in a simulated emergency-room procedure. Then there were those rather unflattering shots of someone’s rear-end taken during a hectic game of Twister.
I can’t even begin to imagine what great-grandpa would have said if he saw one of the set-pieces that the girls put together one Christmas but I know that every time we look at these little gems of photography, we usually end up crying with laughter.
Of course, not every picture in the album bears a resemblance to something from a Three Stooges movie. We do have our more serious or, at least, restrained side. Graduations, anniversaries, showers and weddings have all produced some extremely satisfactory visual records that I would be quite happy to share with great-grandma if she were still around; and how glad I am to have those pictures of my dad and father-in-law, two wonderful people who my grandchildren never had a chance to get to know but whose images, lovingly preserved within the pages of a meticulously maintained scrapbook, may someday help them to better understand the important part their great-grandfathers played in the story of our family’s history.
Still, I can’t help wondering, sometimes, what future generations will think as they hand around great-great-grandma’s family albums. Will they too, laugh at the fashions we find so trendy today or go into convulsions over pictures of our summer vacations? Will they scratch their heads and wonder what on earth was happening when they see that shot of my husband reclining on the sloping roof of our house or the one of my mother, at age eighty-five, taking her first swing on the tire hanging from a tree in my daughter’s back-yard? Who knows.
One thing’s for certain though. As long as there is space left on the CF card and the battery holds out, I’ll be there, waiting to capture one more for the album.