My grandfather was the quintessential self-made man. He never achieved fame, nor did he accumulate a pile a money. However, he was a creator, a true artist. He hand-lettered signs for storefront windows, drew aerial maps for farmers, and built unique household contraptions – including a pie carrier, perfect for Thanksgiving. But his true talent was in photography.
Before the days of iPhones and Instagram, amateur photography was a bit intense. There was no snapping 17 shots to later pick the good one, no filters to camouflage poor lighting or a bad complexion. So the photographer had to actually be GOOD at photographing. Grandpa was an excellent shot, taking pictures at every holiday and family gathering. He developed rolls upon rolls of film each year. Then, it was time for the true masterpiece: the yearly photo album.
Each of Grandpa’s faux leather albums was filled with pages of plastic film, allowing 4 photos on each page. Photos were carefully selected and placed chronologically, with photos of a traditional New Year’s Day meal of ham and beans kicking off each album and an array of Christmas pics wrapping up the end. After completion, the year was written on the spine, and the album placed on a bookcase with albums of years past.
Grandpa died a few years ago, leaving my mother custody of the albums. It is a responsibility she does not take lightly. Those books contain decades of memories. I love to watch my daughters page through the books, laughing at mom’s haircut and Uncle John’s Halloween costumes. More importantly, the girls are learning about the people they didn’t get to meet, including Grandma and Grandpa. Those albums are valuable to me not only because they remind me of times past, but because they have instilled in me the true worth of family photographs – they are simply priceless.