Every year, my family gathers around the Thanksgiving Day table and tells stories about the past. I’m the youngest in the family; my sisters are 16 and 17 years older than me, and my brother is 5 years older. There’s A LOT of history in my family before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eyes.
So I’ve always been somewhat of an outside observer to these crazy stories about what life was like before I came into the world. Life when my parents were just starting out, stories about the dogs in the family, stories about my grandparents, and stories about my older sisters growing up in New England. The one about my brother stepping into a value bucket of peanut butter while trying to get to the cookies and tracking it all over the house – so discrete. The one about my dad trying to kill a bat that flew down into the house with bug spray. Stories about my mom’s Aunt Josephine and Uncle Eddie, or my Dad’s life helping his uncle on farms on the New York/Canada border.
One thing I used to love to do is rummage through my mom’s old photo books. I’d see pictures of my parents when they first got married – my dad’s thick 70s hair and my mom’s long, straight blonde hair and bell bottom pants. There were pictures of my sisters at the beach with iconic bowl cuts and overalls. (I really loved the mid-70s fashion.) I also loved the old polaroids of my parents’ first selfies – yeah, they took selfies BEFORE they were cool. My mom was a babe, and my dad was also not too shabby. I loved seeing these versions of my now middle-aged parents and seeing how our family has evolved.
I don’t think I really appreciated how much weight a photo can hold until I got married and started making my own little family albums. I’ll never forget the way Aaron looked when I walked down the aisle, because my photographer captured it. I’ll never forget the way we both geeked out the first time we saw the volcano at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I’ll never forget how cool I felt walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and eating pizza on the river. The pictures don’t just capture an image – they capture feelings and memories and history. I want my kids to be able to pore over all these memories and I want them to see us as we become our little family unit and develop our family history.
One of my favorite movies as a kid was Hook, where Robin Williams plays a middle-aged Peter Pan returning to Neverland to save his kids from Captain Hook. There’s one scene where Tootles has lost his marbles, his happy thoughts. Peter, with the help of the Lost Boys, returns them. When I think of photography, I can’t help but picture a bag of happy thoughts. That’s what I collect. All the stories and histories and memories – I’m creating bags of happy thoughts.