It sat on the floor in the basement for years, serving as an end table. A big wood box, an old trunk on which coffee cups gathered and books lay open. It was there as long as I’ve known Hubby and his family, and it was rumored to contain family photos.
My husband’s parents are moving, downsizing from the home where they raised four sons. This has been a season of consolidation, in many ways. And when the basement had been emptied of most of its furnishings, when the floors were bare and the walls echoed only memories, we sat down and opened the box of generations. And there, in no particular order, was the history of family…jumbled together; tintypes pressed on metal disks, black and white photos with their curled and scalloped edges, small square Kodachrome snapshots faded burnt-umber (or maybe everything in 1970 was really orange?) and the Costco digital prints. A box of memories.
We see it clearly in the two-dimensional faces, family resemblances that go back generation to generation. What passes down through the tangle of double helix, what’s tied up in these family lines? Not just what you see here on the paper, thick and yellowed on the back or new and shiny. There is history here, stories and happenings and triumph and pain, lives lived and many that have passed…stored here only in this wood box of photos and in the tales passed down from one generation to the next. And who can really sum up a life with bits of paper and a few words?
I think about how things get passed down, the recipes and the hot tempers, lullabies and holiday traditions, the fables of relatives who came here by boat and others who brushed with fame, tales of fortune and misfortune. How my own children reflect things I see in my parents, in his parents, how we laughed at Eldest’s habit of sticking just a bit of his tongue out when he was concentrating…just like his great-grandfather did. What passes down through the lines, and what fades away?
Handfuls of memories, some that I share and others (standing too long still in their stiff collars, their images fading in tattered frames) long relegated to the faded place of myth and story. These photos hold promises of their own, in the familiar toddler-smiles of these newest snapshots. Some day my photo may be lifted from such a pile and labeled with a long-told story…generations from now. One thought grows in my mind and turns to prayer, the kind that brings me to my knees…Lord, whatever else may be passed down the generations to come, let one thing be said of us, one thing be said of our children and theirs and then down along the line.
Lord, let the story that is told over and over, when some new generation of hands hold the faded image of us long gone…whatever other fabled tales may be told let it be said of us through the generations to come that we loved the Lord. May it be passed down and down again, may it never skip a generation, may not one be ever lost.