Take for instance, an old run of the mill, ordinary everyday shoebox, a belly full of beer and the lure of the basement.
Some of friends might make the claim that at times, I’m full of shit. That given enough alcohol, time and a willing ear to bend, I can weave a story about almost anything that comes to mind. Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not but I’ll try and take it in the spirit that it was intended. After all, I can pretty much say the same about most of them on any given night when the beer and shots are flowing freely. In part, I think that’s what keeps us coming back to each other.
And so it was when I got home the other evening that I went looking for buried treasure. No, not in the backyard or out on the many beaches that dot the coast line of Ohio. Sometimes the treasure one seeks isn’t hidden at all. It’s right there underneath your nose just waiting to be found. In my case, all it involved was yet another trip down to the basement.
There, scattered amongst the dampness and the long forgotten suitcases and other assorted relics are a couple of rows of shoeboxes. While the shoes themselves have either long gone out of fashion or been discarded because their soles have worn thin, there’s no denying they still hold on to another type of soul.
Maybe they contain old newspaper clippings from days gone or an old report card or two. If you’re old enough, there might be a set of dads cufflinks, a tie clip or a billfold that you kept as a keepsake for some reason or another. Maybe it’s the index cards that your mom used to transcribe her Betty Crocker recipes on. If you’re a parent, maybe they contain a lock or two of hair and either some baby shoes or baby teeth that you felt the need to hold onto.
In my particular instance, most of them hold old photographs.
All of these were taken long before the days of jpegs, digital cameras and cell phones that take pictures. Most of them are old Polaroids that seem to be on the brink of crumbling or falling apart when you lift them out to look at them. Truth be told, I find that rather comforting.
I’m sure that many of you are now scratching your heads and are wondering what preposterous reasons could be floating around in that thing I call a brain. After all, images are much easier to organize, don’t take up as much room, are hard to lose, can be edited at almost anytime, can be forwarded to just abut anywhere under the sun and will seemingly last forever. Don’t get me wrong, that all goes in the plus column when it comes to the debate over images versus a picture but then there’s also the minus column.
See, to me, images don’t have another side to them. Oh sure, they can be captioned with text but that’s just what it is, plain text. You can’t hold them in your hand and turn them over in order to try and decipher some faded handwriting or to wonder about under just what circumstances it was taken. They seem to hold a certain air of mystery to them and you have to play detective to figure out just what was so important at the moment that it warranted a snapshot. I mean, just look at some of the people in the photo and the poses they struck.
Most of the pictures that I have are what’s probably known as staged shots. There hidden amongst what seem like forced smiles and stilted postures are the little buried treasures that I was referring to earlier. It takes some time and some imagination to look at those expressions and to try and figure out what the back story might be. They don’t vanish with the click of the mouse or by the hitting of the delete button but are meant to be pored over and wrestled with until they take on some meaning.
Somehow, long after I’m gone, I think I’m gonna find it reassuring to know that my kid can still pick up a picture of me and hold it to her cheek and maybe shed a tear or two or let a smile cross her face when she thinks about the times that we’ve had. When it comes to things like that, something’s aren’t meant to be edited or thrown out.
For all their convenience and their own brand of magic, I just don’t see that happening with an image on a screen.