Tue 3 Dec 2013
What to do with aged photos when you’re cleaning out an old person’s home and none of the faces are familiar?
There’s a market for them in flea markets and online, of course. Probably other places as well, but that’s what I’m familiar with. I admit to being conflicted by the idea. There are buckets of photos my mother has held onto for years, ranging from the 1920s to near-present. A lot of them are from World War II when my mother worked as a riveter at Douglas Aircraft. Periodically we go through some of them so she can tell me who the people are and I can pencil it in on the back, but some of the faces are beyond even her at this point. And even if I know their names…they have no context for me. They’re just names.
Eventually, someone will have to deal with these—if not me, then whoever cleans out my place when I’m gone. It seems disrespectful to sell them, yet that’s probably less disrespectful than consigning them to the trash. Which happens. A coworker told me of that very thing occurring when her friend cleaned out her parents’ home. I explained about the market for old photos and she was amazed.
“If only my friend had known!”
If only other people’s memories could be held as sacred as our own. But that’s the nature of time and change. We hold what we have inside our hearts and when our hearts fade, so do the memories. As the African proverb says, “Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.”