Friday, May 07, 2010


If my current life was a movie, I think “The Project that Ate My Office” would be a fitting title. I have outgrown my desk, moved my stacks to the bed, and finally, in desperation, set up a card table in the middle of the room.

Remember my ambitious goal of scanning the old family pictures and giving copies of them to all my siblings? It was my way of saying to them, “I’m w-a-a-y too irresponsible to be in charge of these family heirlooms all by myself.”

I’m trying to sort and organize the pictures in a logical way: 1) my father’s family, 2) my mother’s family, 3) my father and mother from birth until 1941 when they got married, 4) pictures that show their family growing over the years, and finally 4) individual pictures of each of the six children in my family.

My oldest sister has approximately a bajillion pictures from birth through college graduation. She had so many that I finally ended up scanning them six at a time to save space. My brother, second in line, has about a half a bajillion pictures. Even my next older sister, third in line, has at least a quarter of a bajillion pictures documenting her life.

Below: Six of the approximately ten katrillion baby pictures of my oldest sister. Seriously, Mom and Dad, did you just lie around all day taking her picture?

It’s we three youngest sisters who are in trouble, photographically speaking.

First of all, we are rarely photographed alone. We’re always mixed in with a mob of older siblings or cousins or company visiting from California. It was like my parents were afraid to be alone in a room with a camera and any one of the three of us.

Below: Rare photo of “The Three Little Ones” in 1957.
Second, we must have had leprosy or the bubonic plague because whoever photographed us always stood at least a half-mile away while forcing us to stare directly into the sun. In most of our pictures, we sisters are off on the distant horizon, squinting at the camera. This explains, perhaps, why all three of us were forced to get glasses at a fairly young age.

Then came the early 1960s. My dad, who never bought anything at full price in his life, decided to buy a brand new Polaroid Land instant camera. He probably got such a good deal because it was the original beta model, before Polaroid had worked out all the bugs.

Right: Oh, that’s what the pink goop was for!

I suppose the fine print on the Polaroid camera box warned us that failure to smear the tube of sticky pink goopy stuff on the pictures after they emerged from the camera would result in streaked or faded pictures. (Note to my siblings: whoever of us had the job of goop-smearing is fired.) Whatever the reason, those 1960s pictures did not survive the test of time. An entire decade of family pictures are ghostly, discolored, streaky photos that require imagination to interpret. But since those were our awkward years, maybe it is better that way.

I had thought this project would take a week or so. Now I’m just hoping to be done by the end of May—which, by the way, is National Photography Month. Freaky coincidence.

I’m usually a little on the OCD side in regard to my surroundings. I like things neat and spare. That in itself is an incentive to invest in some overtime and put this project to bed (or, rather, get this project off the bed and back into plastic storage boxes).


Mary Witzl said...

I've got stacks of old family pictures I don't quite know what to do with myself, including some truly horrendous Polaroid numbers that I'll never bring myself to throw away. So funny to think about them now when everything is digital and so much more high tech. I'm sure my daughters would laugh themselves silly at the thought of smearing pink goop on photos...

2to4aday said...

Mary: After I wrote about the "pink goop," I wondered how many people would even remember what I was talking about. I guess you had to be around in the early Polaroid days--and it seemed like such a miracle at the time. Imagine--taking a picture and seeing it immediately. It was almost magic. Thanks for remembering!

Anonymous said...

Boy can I relate. As the youngest of five children, there is a picture of me about 10 months, about 5 years (squinting in the sun) and then I'm graduating high school! When my parents gave me their trust papers to read, the children's full first, middle and last name were on it except for me. I had only a first and last name. They had forgotten my middle name (which was "Ann" for goodness sake - pretty much every other girl born in the 50's had Ann as a middle name)! I guess I'm lucky they didn't name me Number 5. Maryln L