My wife is putting together a slide show for her mum’s life celebration party and she just handed me about 200 photos I’d mostly never seen before, the ones she is planning to scan. They were chronological, for the most part. Starting in 1941 and ending probably last year.
Diane was about my mother’s age so I was well familiar with the kind of pictures they took in the forties. Some barely bigger than a postage stamp. Christening dresses, new shoes. Some smiles forced, some genuine and natural. Kids have barely changed a bit.
To look at these pictures was a bit like watching a Ken Burns film that relies on still photography. Watching a life unfold, the piano music and narration in my head.
Here come the fifties, there are the sixties. When my wife started to show up in these pictures in the seventies, it became less of a museum project than a study of a life for me. As the years went by, I started to recognize the Diane that I knew and the Valerie I’ve spent the last 22 years with. I never felt that young with her but I was. And she was, especially. And then I began to see pictures of Diane at about the age my wife is now and I’m reminded that no matter how old we feel at any given time, we’re always going to be old to someone and always going to seem young to someone. And if someone takes your picture today, you’ll likely never look younger again.
But the best part of this experience was seeing Dave and Diane having pictures taken with their best friends. Some of them thirty years ago. People I know. People who we’ll be dining with in a few weeks. People who are now my friends. Family is important, of course. But life-long friendships are a choice you make and continue to make year after year. They really are irreplaceable.