Sunday, November 18, 2007

Making Sense of Age

I've spent quite a few hours lately scanning childhood photos of myself into my computer. These are photos that my mom has taken, or my grandparents, and that I've known & seen for years, but without the slightest CLUE where the negatives are. I asked to borrow the album so that Tess & I could see whether we thought Roslyn looked more like me or her, which is ridiculous: she's beautiful, which means she looks like her mom! But no matter...once I started going through the photos, and REALIZED that any negatives that once existed are probably long gone, I decided to scan these in. Many of them were taken with a camera that leaked a little light, and plus...well, the photos are 30, 35...close to 40 years old! They...well, they LOOK old, in that dated, faded, "from before" way. I figured that Photoshop could restore some of them to something close to a prior glory, and this way they at least exist in two forms, should something happen to the originals.

I looked at all of them on the screen, magnified now beyond their 3x3" original size, and I find that I'm seeing all kinds of things I never noticed before. Some are easy: hey, that's my aunt standing in the middle of the picture! I just...never noticed her there before! Some things, though, are tougher, and they have me thinking about age in a new way. Not a BAD way, mind you: I have no problems with age, or with being the age I am. In my mind I feel anywhere from 11 to 18, depending on the day and how many fart jokes I feel like cracking. If my popping knees and hair color don't always agree with this inner age...well, whatever. 40 next year? No problem. After all: getting older sure beats the alternative! But I started looking at photos of people I've known all my life, and I'm seeing them in a much different way now. Take this photo, for instance:

Pictured are my somewhat-surprised looking grandpa and, seated to his right, my uncle. This is Christmas, maybe 1978 but no later than '79. Gramps looks just like he ought to: round face, big ears, heavy on the double chin. This is the face I've known all my life, and even thought it's a bit more wrinkled and the hair's a bit more grey (although nowhere NEAR as grey as his grandson's!), this man looks & FEELS like my grandfather. But my uncle? Wow. Don't misunderstand, he looks "normal" to me, for this time period (satiny disco shirt and all). But what I'm realizing is: he's in his mid- to late-20's here. His TWENTIES! Holy. Shit. This man was effectively a father-figure for me (since I lacked a true one of my own during these years), and I look at him now and see...a kid? Well, little more than, anyway. I mean...these were his "fuck years," to quote Eddie Murphy! 'Course, he was on his second marriage...and he'd been to Viet Nam...and he'd taken most of the drugs Bay City had to offer, and boosted liquor stores, and stolen, yeah, maybe in the late '70s being in your 20's was somehow older than it is now. I just feel...I dunno, I guess I just feel really strange that I'm NOW 10 years older than my UNCLE was THEN. Like I said: it makes me see him in a little different light. Not anything like less-respectful, He probably thought he was so...grown up.

And speaking of grown up, here's a photo of my mom, with me and some of our extended family, on a camping trip in the U.P. during the summer of '75:

My mom is the one in the striped shirt, leaning against her Jeep Renegade CJ-5. I'm being held my Gramps, and with us is my aunt (who, at only a little less than 5 years older than me, has always been more like a sister) and our grand-Aunt & Uncle. This was the summer I turned 7, and so my mom hasn't yet turned 29. In this photo, she's two years YOUNGER than Miss Tessmacher is NOW...and she had a 7-year old. We camped a lot in those days, including the summer of '76 when Mom hauled us on a summer-long trip out to Denver to visit relatives. This trip began in Michigan, and progressed in a rough circle through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and finally to Colorado, coming home through Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois before arriving back home. We left the day after school let out (in those days, late-May) and got home a few days before it started up again (before we needed a law mandating that said beginning should be AFTER Labor Day). We slept that whole summer in this tent:

a good, solid Coleman job made out of canvas that she had to spray with water repellent so that we'd stay dry. There were times that, following a rain storm, we'd stay an extra day or two so that she didn't have to pack the tent still wet. When we were in Galveston we got caught in a tropical squall and ended up lashing the tent to the Jeep bumper on one side, and the car of another camper on the other. It was a great trip, one I'll never forget...and it was the summer before my mom turned 30. At the time, she wondered why HER parents were so worried about us that summer! Sheesh.

Like I said: seeing these images doesn't change how I feel at the tail end of my 30's, but it does really change how I think about the "adults" in my life at that time. I saw them as all-knowing and all-capable, but really, they were going through the same sense of "Am I doing this right?" that Tess & I now find ourselves considering. Funny.

I'll probably post some more of these yesteryear images in the coming weeks, with little stories to match. Hope that doesn't bore y'all. 'Til then!


Blogger L*I*S*A said...

Oh gosh...these pics are GREAT. Keep 'em comin'. You are inspiring me to fire up the scanner.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Suze said...


And put up some pix of the Rozzle while you're at it, eh?

8:59 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Nice post. Pictures like those become wallpaper after a while, you just don't SEE the picture anymore from viewing so many times. It's great to get a fresh look at those memories...where's pix of Rozz-inator?

2:11 PM  

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