Tripping over the past

When my mother-in-law passed away in 2012, I spent the first days after emptying drawers, tossing out expired bingo cards and forgotten lotions and gathering together a lifetime of memorabilia, with the intent to scan all the photos and newspaper clippings, digitize the dozens of boxes of slides, and in general, preserve these things so they could be easily shared with other members of the family. I brought home a massive box with us, and it has lived on the floor of my closet for the last several years.  I did take the step of buying a slide and negative converter a few years ago, but that’s as far as I got.

This last week or two, I was looking through my old photo albums, trying to find the one that holds the photos of my kids on their second trip to Disneyland, so I can show my niece and nephew before my parents take them to Disneyland in a few weeks.  I think I switched to a digital camera right before that trip – some photos are on Flickr, but others that I remember are not.  Did I ever print them?  Who knows.  Also – HA! Look!  I used to dress them cute and do their hair!

Anyway, all this strolling through memory lane brought to mind the giant box in my closet that needed to be dealt with.  I slid it out of its place into the middle of the floor, and then every single member of the family managed to ram a limb into it, stub a toe or bruise a shin. There was a general cursing of the box, until I opened it.  Photo albums full of my husband’s childhood had my kids riveted. They had seen a lot of these albums before – my husband’s face a mirror of my two daughters, same expressions, same attitude, rendered in black and white snapshots during his childhood in Korea, and then in the faded, rusty tones of 1970s film.  The slides were new to us, though, and as I started to scan them, the first years after my husband arrived in the USA came to life for the first time.  I scanned a bunch of the slides and called them up on the screen.  This was the first one:

Look How Cool


That’s my husband, about 5 years old I think, leaning hip cocked and legs crossed, smirking at the camera.  “Look how cool I was!” said my husband when I showed him the photo.  There’s that first-born confidence, I thought.

Seeing these old photos has brought a new side of my husband’s history to life for me.  I’m pretty familiar with my husband’s teenager story, but somehow, seeing these photos of family trips to the snow, the lake, holidays with the grandparents and playing with neighbors in the yard…I can hear his young voice, and feel the warm sun on his skin after a long day of playing.  I can see the echo in the memories of my own children, who are also past those years of swing sets and skinned knees and throwing rocks at the water just to hear the splash.

I also realized recently that I haven’t taken a decent picture with a real camera in almost half a year. My phone is filled with half-assed candids of the kids, and some selfies, but I haven’t been taking the same pains to document our lives that I used to.  Some of that is inevitable, our lives have been straight up boring, with weekends lost to homework and housework and all of our family outings revolving around shopping or eating out. It doesn’t feel like a worthy thing to document.

Mid-year resolution: Once a month family outing to somewhere other than Costco or Five Guys. Somewhere worthy of the Big Camera.



  1. I hear ya. I realized a few weeks back I have a lot of lousy photos lately. So I’ve been looking harder at our usual moments. And working harder to remember to take my nice camera. I think with my phone as camera it’s just another thing. In either case… I too am looking for ways to exists and capture memories outside of errands, homework, and practices… But I am also looking hard for the times within the mundane that might be memory worthy too 🙂

  2. That photo of your husband is great! I don’t even know where my good camera is at the moment. I’m sure it’s covered in dust, yet my phone is filled with photos. And you just reminded me that I bought a slide/negative scanner 2 years ago that I still haven’t used. Might be time to put it to use.