Not so long ago I was looking at old photos and taking a walk down memory lane. The photos were of me, my wife, my children and grandchildren, my brother, my parents, and many friends who have since grown distant. While looking at these photos and thinking about the time they were taken and what was going on, it’s easy to get caught up in the “Knowing what I know now” trap. I say trap because it’s easy to become remorseful about what was or wasn’t done and let’s face it, physics will not, as of yet, let us travel back in time. What the photos don’t show are the bad times. There are snapshots of young love but they don’t show the hurt, anger, and heartache that accompany that young love. One picture shows me in my high school baseball uniform. Memories that seem hardwired, the smell of the grass and the warmth of the sun on a dusty baseball diamond waft around me. I can almost hear the crack of the bat and the slap of the baseball hitting the leather of my glove. What doesn’t bubble to the surface is the pain of losing a close game or the crunch of my nose breaking during a collision. Pictures are great but usually they’re snapshots of happy times. I’m also reminded of a quote, “Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can,” Danny Kaye. If nothing more these photos are proof of paint.
They bring happiness and a feeling of nostalgia. Like a garden hoe, they pry and poke at the memory until those good feelings break through the soil like beans ready to be picked. A picture of a church youth choir yields memories of trips, love, laughter and adventure while the picture of an old ball team grows memories of victory, life, and youth. Like Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past we’re given a glimpse of our earlier lives, usually good times peppered with the bad.
I’ve already lived those photos, the happy times and the sad. I remember myself as an awkward teen boy who couldn’t talk to girls and had to write notes on what to say before calling one. If I had the chance to do it all again I’d do it the same way. In twenty years when I look at picture of this place and time I’m sure I’ll have the same feelings of happiness and nostalgia. I might even be tempted to wish I could do it again. When the camera next comes around to snap my picture I’ll be smiling and sending a message 20 years down the road to my older self. The knowing smile will say, “I’ve thrown some paint. Now it’s your turn”.