Photos Take Me Back and Forward
A couple of years ago, perhaps longer, my youngest sister handed off two plastic containers of old photos she had recovered from our late sister's house. The photographs, she informed me, were in no apparent order, but they were ones I might want to keep.
These were pictures my middle sister had inherited from our mother who, over the years, had augmented her own collection with scrapbooks dead relatives had left behind.
The containers sat in a corner of my home office for a long while. I rarely thought of them, though I added "organize photos" to my perpetual to-do list. Then one rainy Saturday afternoon, feeling unusually nostalgic, I took a chance. I cracked open a lid and my past poured out.
This is the kind of mission you should undertake with a bottle of wine and a buddy, preferably one with a strong shoulder and willing ear. At that moment, I had neither, but I pressed on, and, unable to stop myself, hopscotched through my childhood.
A toddler in pigtails on the tiled porch of a house in
A kindergartner posing with brother and sister in front of a stone fireplace, parents at either side: the first house we rented in exile.
A bespectacled middle-schooler on the banks of
A senior on her way to graduation, all dolled up: world, here I come.
There were other images of people and places, first in black and white, then in color. Some I vaguely remembered, others I will never forget. All captured a moment of hope, a singular slice of innocent faith and optimism.
Each snapshot revived the person I had been at a certain age, a certain time. Each inspired an unsettled feeling that, I think, is typical of my stage in life. As I careen toward retirement with youth in the rearview mirror, I find myself taking stock, examining old details for new clues of what I've earned and what I've irretrievably lost.
Lately, conversations with friends have eased away from concerns about children -- grades, sports, college applications -- to worries of another kind. Regret is a powerful undertow and a common theme. We talk about opportunities missed and risks taken, about failures but also sweet successes. We're circling back, asking more questions, entertaining doubts.
Have we fulfilled the promises of our youth? And, more importantly, do we still have time?
Early dreams have a way of dissipating in the relentless grip of reality. Yet, most of us manage to hold on and on. My friends and I have taken note of people who returned to college in their 70s, others who penned books in retirement. We've read of downsized workers opening businesses and older couples heading overseas for charity work. Lesson: It's never too late.
If a snapshot could capture this moment, it would show a woman, face lined, gaze certain, dreams reimagined. World, the image would say, I'm not done.
Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. Write to her at The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132, or send e-mail to aveciana(at)herald.com.
(c) 2009, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.