Life Review: Scanning Mom’s Photos
Summer 2014. For three really hot and humid days, I sat in my apartment listening to books on Audible, finishing a project I’d started a couple of summers ago, and had worked on over my summer vacations--to scan a giant box of my mom’s photos.
The dyes under the finish on many of them were fading—the reds gone from some leaving them too blue, and others were deteriorating in other ways. Once they were digitized, they were easily color corrected, and everyone in the family could share them, and store them in the cloud, instead of in a dusty box.
It was amazing to see photos of my life going by, six-at-a-time. Seeing the too-short lives of my elder siblings who have died, watching my son grow up, and realizing that in these photos, he is the same age as one of his three sons is now. I didn’t plan to do a life-review, but it’s what this project amounted to.
Also, this summer, I made a decision to sift through twenty years of memoir files I’d been writing and saving. I knew I’d be wading through memoir chapters written and slammed in a folder inside my Mac’s documents. But in those folders and sub-folders were also therapy notes and ideas, dreams, and vignettes of things I thought I might want to put into the memoir when I picked that project up again. But I found it too oppressive, too disturbing to do that work while home alone.
So I drove to Wallkill, and spent a bunch of days at Ed and Richard’s making my way through those files. They took care of me, and I kept doing the work, waiting for the frame story to reveal itself, or the spark of inspiration to arrive. No luck.
Back home in Manhattan in August, when I received the pdf of the 2014-15 NYC DOE school calendar, I worked my way through the rest of 2014 in my personal calendar, inserting our Parent-Teacher Conferences and holidays. I was aware that I was doing this annual task for the last time. This time next year, I’d be free. Be my own boss, making decisions about what I wanted to do for the following twelve months, or thirty years!
Last spring, I had a conversation with Alice and Tom about the possibility of supporting them around child-care as Alice would be ready to go back to work after eight years of full-time child rearing, just as I was leaving the paid work force.
The late-August depression and anxiety began to set in, as I imagined myself back in the world of Sunday afternoons full of papers to correct and classroom observations to survive. Searching for something happy to think about, I began some very long-range retirement celebration planning.
Instead of a party with funny hats and over the hill jokes, I thought that Tom’s boys were finally old enough to go camping in Acadia National Park in Maine. It’s a place I love and have returned to throughout my life. My father took us there when my brothers were five and seven, and I was about fourteen. I believe it is calling me to return.