I’ve been going through the photos on my computer–talk about a rabbit hole in which to lose an afternoon. My siblings and I are getting together soon to remember and honor our sister Pat who died last month, and I’m asking all who gather to bring their photos of her to share. But such a request may be harder to fulfill than first imagined. 

For my part, my house is decorated with photographs; faces of my loved ones shine back at me from the stairwell (there’s a special section for the deceased), from the breakfront in the kitchen, from a room divider screen in the living room, and from frames on my dresser and desks. Most of these are from the era of dropping off negatives to be printed at the drug store and picked up a few days later at the photo counter. Negatives for some of my framed photos might be in the spare bedroom closet. There’s a box of photos that didn’t get selected for framing, many awaiting assignment into a photo album. (That was supposed to be an activity for when I retired.) 

My brother Miles, a videographer among many other of his artistic talents, had at one time boxes of family photos. Many are on the VHS format, which may create a challenge as to sharing them. Not sure who has them but somewhere there are Super 8 format family films taken by our dad when we were kids. The first moving picture shoot occurred in the living room where we usually stood in front of the fireplace for still family portraits that ended up on yearly Christmas cards. Our parents directed us to move, since this was a movie camera, so the images of us chasing one another around the coffee table provided years of giggles and teasing laughter whenever the film was replayed. Would be interested to see the reaction of the younger generations to these antics of their elders. 

Images of the growing, changing childhood of grandchildren are especially important to us elders. After my sister’s illness overtook her to the point where she was not on a computer or able to pull up Facebook photos, she once remarked, “Doesn’t anybody have actual photos you hold in your hand and can frame?” When Pat was confined to her room in the care facility due to COVID restrictions her son Adam provided her with framed photos for her side table. My husband and I loaded photos of family members onto an IPad and mailed it to her, though I never heard whether she was able to view them. Maybe that’s why I’m so intent on having photos as a central feature of our family gathering.  

Now like most people, my photos are on my computer and my phone, and for safety’s sake, they’re in the iCloud where I pay a monthly fee to store them. Flipping through the library, I’m quickly overwhelmed by the 11,000 photos and 445 videos. I find a couple of photos but not the ones I’m looking for. I remember that the system has a face recognition feature and clicking around I discover how to operate it. A couple more clicks and I have a file I name “Patty Jo” which was my sister’s childhood name. I click something else, which I may not be able to remember or repeat, and now a slide show of photos of my sister plays automatically, music and all. it was so easy it took my breath away. 
Hopefully via the stimulation of our shared images, we’ll tell and retell our memories and stories of Pat and have new memories and photos to trade and collect when our upcoming family ritual comes to its end.