I scanned a lot of old pictures a few years ago to put on a digital picture frame for my mother. I was going through some of them Friday and found this one, which shows my brother Henry and me (I’m the one on the left) and, coincidentally, the gardenia I mentioned in an earlier post. The gardenia is right behind us. It looks like it’s at least six feet tall.
From more than a half a century away, these seem like pictures of someone else. I remember a lot of things from those days, but even the memories seem to be someone else’s. I was probably around seven here, so my brother was around 10. My parents would have been in their 30’s. Today I think of people that age as kids.
When I see pictures like these, I don’t see me and my family at that age, I see the entire history of the Paris family, from the young mother and father with two little boys to the aged parents who die and leave two old men behind. I see all the big events that shaped their lives, and, as you probably know, bad things seem to leave stronger memories than good things. It’s like watching a movie you’ve seen many times before, so you know what’s going to happen next. You want to call out to the characters, “No! Don’t do it!” But, of course, you can’t. It’s all going to happen again, the good and the bad, played out in my memory.
Memory is like a scolding parent trying to keep you from getting into trouble. It’s not there to make you happy, it’s there to keep you from touching that hot stove again. So looking at the old pictures I scanned is a melancholic experience. It takes an effort of will to shut up the nagging part of the brain. Yes, yes, I know, the parents die in the end, but in the meantime, let us have some fun, for dog’s sake.