Photography: When It’s Too Hard to Let Go
I’m blessed with a lot of space, but many others struggle with finding a space for the things they inherit. Useful things aren’t the challenge. Grandmother’s casserole dish? To the kitchen it goes.
But what about the things you aren’t going to use? Things that perhaps aren’t at the top of the sentimental list, but still is wrapped in a memory? Something too big to put into a box?
I’m not going to be exhaustive right now, but I do want to suggest one solution. Photography.
I’ve snapped a hundred photos of my parents’ things. It’s a great way to hold on and let go at the same time. But I’m struggling. There’s one thing I’ve got I don’t want to let go of, even though I’ve got photos of it.
I was looking at the photos the other night. I took several dozen images in August after I cut my parents’ lawn, a beautifully uniform carpet of green. I inherited their place after Mom died nearly eight years ago. I love the property, but I don’t intend to live there.
Because it might be the last summer I’d have my childhood home, I photographed all the outdoor spaces that made a little girl feel safe.
I finally got around to printing out the photos last week. I set out to label each one in great detail, in case I forgot where the spot was in relationship to others, or what they meant to me. As if I could forget, but a little 4×6 piece of paper can be disorientating.
The tree I climbed still stands in the backyard. From my perch, surrounded by fencing at the time, I’d watch my collie jump up and try to get to me. She died in 1987. Now the limb I pulled up on is out of reach. The tree looks gnarly. Foreboding. Unfamiliar. But it’s still my tree.
The place above the Duck Pond is grown up now, however, still familiar. The path is between the levee and the chain-link fence that marked a boundary of our property. On the other side of the fence resides “the black cemetery” as the locals called it. I find it odd that even in death people segregate themselves, but such issues weren’t a concern of mine as a girl. My father erected a tire swing by that pond. I play-acted under the shade of the trees. Happy times.
I took a photograph of the multi-colored bathroom tiles that sit at the base of a chain-link gate. It was a secondary entrance we rarely used. The tiles have sat there nearly 45 years. They came from the house my parents bought. It burned before we lived in it, and a double-wide trailer replaced it. My mother planned to use the tiles. How I do not recall.
I cannot bring myself to throw them away. I won’t take them all with me when I sell the house. I’ll take just a couple. I’ve got a photograph of them, their presence nearly obliterated by the grass…. Oh, the stories that one photograph can tell.
What things did you photograph? What memories does the photograph invoke?
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