Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nostalgia Fest 2010


yellow butterfly 4
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
Over the last couple weeks I've finally gotten around to scanning in a bunch of old pictures and putting them up on Facebook. I have a surprising amount of old pictures, but I didn't get obsessive about them until the early 90s. I wish I had more from the 80s - I mean, there were outfits that should have been immortalized, not to mention such images as Ricky Fuckhead passing out on my parent's steps, Audrey's stuffed cookie monster cuddled up to his matching blue mohawk, but I didn't have a camera then. I wanted one but cameras were expensive and developing film even more so. Besides, I was too damn busy being cool to go around taking pictures - thank the gods I got over that.

So I have a very few pictures of the eighties - mostly faded polaroids - and a lot of pictures from about 1990 on up, all organized into the kind of cheap-o albums that are guaranteed, like a cyanide tooth in a spy's mouth, to destroy each cherished image bit by bit. Still I wish there were more. The advent of digital photography has spoiled me and I think everything should be documented, but it wasn't so easy back then. I remember wanting to take pictures of landscapes and rocks and bugs and suchlike artsy stuff - kind of like the butterfly there on the right - one summer in Vermont and stopping myself, thinking, Felicity, you can't afford pictures of bugs and flowers. Every picture you take should have the kids in it or at the very least the damn dog.

So I took pictures of the kids and the dogs and my friends and there we all are, in Charleston, in Baltimore, in Rock Hall, in Vermont, in New York, uncomfortable in Jackson County at my parents, looking younger and, okay, sort of embarrassing (my daughter, on hearing that there are more scanned things up on facebook, screams OH GOD NO NOT MORE HIPPIE KID PICTURES MOM.) But good, too. We look good, I think, and the kids, the kids. The kids are grown up now and some of them even have kids of their own. This makes me sad and then happy at the same time - that odd time passing ache, that nostalgia thing.

Old pictures stir up old emotions, or, rather, you sort of think they should but they don't, exactly. They stir up the ghosts of old emotions, frayed and faded remnants of what you once felt or said or did. I looked at one picture and thought, huh, what's he doing there and remembered, oh yeah, that was after that suicide attempt. Well. He's fine now, twenty years on. Oh look, I think to myself, that's when my marriage was ending and I was pretty damn suicidal myself. Hmm, wow. That's when I couldn't figure out what to do about the kids' schools and that's when I was fighting with my best friend and, huh, it all kind of worked out, didn't it? Or did it? Is there some parallel universe where I'm still married (yeah, okay, I broke out the wedding album. Jesus.) or maybe where I'm still dating so and so or what if I never met any of these people or, or - eep. Old photos are dangerous. That's one of the reasons why I'm okay with them fading.

In Baltimore for a while there was a lovely museum called the City Life Museum. It had exhibits on, basically, living in the city in the early 20th century - somebody else's nostalgia fest - and included in it were a bunch of photo albums that people had donated or that they had found at Value Village or something. These were the kind of photo albums where somebody in the early 30s had carefully written out captions - Caspar, at the Lake, 1927, with Aunt Iris - and fitted beautiful black and white worlds into photo corners. You could tell that they had been treasured for a long time and then one day long after Caspar the white dog had become a friendly ghost and Aunt Iris had also departed this earthly vale and nobody knew where the Lake was anymore, the album had ended up in the museum. So, those afternoons in the nineties, had I and while the kids, small then, played in the little fake 1920s grocery store I would sit on top of the fake fire engine and look through these old, old photo albums. It was the pictures of the dogs who usually made me cry but really, there is nothing sadder than an abandoned photo album, even if it doesn't have dogs in it.

So as to keep this fate from my pictures, I have therefore scanned a bunch and put them up on Facebook to be laughed at and then put the albums back on a shelf to molder quietly. It's been a more uncomfortable task than I thought it would be and not just because the scanner is so slow. It makes me question things, like, did this really work out? Is this really okay? What happened to us and where did we go and what, exactly, is this time thing anyway? I hate getting involved in asking those big, horrible questions that shouldn't ever really be looked at. Photos are dangerous.