In early 2020, right before the world stopped, my parents were preparing for a move—sorting a lifetime’s worth of things and deciding which would be moving with them. Downsizing. Every item in their home had some meaning attached to it. Something that one of them inherited, collected, purchased, or created. None easy to part with. Every time I visited for months (years, really) leading up to the Great Departure, my mother would take me to the basement and show me the storage room. Did I want any of the mismatched dishes or the random tchotchkes that she hadn’t been able to part with but didn’t actually need? (I did not.)
Not until she uncovered a duffel bag filled with boxes of 35mm slides. According to her, the slides had been inherited from both of my parents’ parents when they died, and they’d been in my parents’ basement, untouched, unsorted, unseen, and stored in this bag for decades.
I guess she had briefly considered digitizing them at some point, but: life.
Fast forward a few months and we’re all locked in our houses with no end in sight. The bag of slides was now living at my house (obviously they couldn’t be discarded). So, I purchased a scanner and started a project that I’ll probably never finish.
The existence of these images brings me a mixture of emotions so great, I can’t really put names to them. Every detail transports me, and I’m all at once someplace else entirely and as deeply grounded as I’ve ever been. Connected. I search their faces for bits of myself and my children. I see my cousins and their babies. I marvel at the younger faces of my mother and her sisters, so grateful that someone picked up the camera.
The blurry images only draw me deeper into their stories. And the ones I would reject if they were mine, as being poorly composed? Well, in those I see details of my mother’s childhood that have never previously been revealed to me.
Treasures, these. And I’m once again reminded of why photographs matter.