We spent an hour or so looking through a huge box of old photographs at my mum’s house, amidst much laughter. Me with a violin, the Brother with hair, Herself as a bride and style icon. There were pictures in black and white, in faded colour, gaps in albums where previous raids had occurred.
We were there as children, our parents as children, the grandparents always grown up, straight backed and often unsmiling. Except for Granda, who was always smiling, the blue eyes twinkling even in black and white.
There are people we don’t know, parties we don’t remember, in amongst the weddings, the laughs, the holidays, all the times on Donegal beaches in knitted hats and aran jumpers. There are the hairstyles- long, short, massive ‘Monica’ hair, the time I took the scissors to my own hair and Herself had to crop the rest to match. First Communion frock. Stripy school blazer and cap. Glasses- big, wide, round, reactolite. Oh dear; but we were all the same. Glasses styles provoked a lot of hilarity from the girls
My dad as a baby, teenager, young man, parent, boss, his retirement do and the hard to look at pictures taken the last day he was up, 2 weeks before he died. They’re the shocking ones, left on a film in a camera and not developed until weeks later. How frail he was. We knew he was dying; how did we not see how skeletal he’d got? How come the man was dead and buried before we got to be horrified at his appearance? We were protected from that by seeing him all the time. We protected ourselves from his impending death by focussing on the day to day, minute by minute, business of his living.
We too have boxes of photographs but they stop, suddenly, some years ago as technology reached even us. Now Girl1 and Girl2 spend loads of time looking at pictures on the computer, marvelling at how cute they used to be and still wondering about my hair choices…