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This must be the place: ‘Cast upon a beach town, Winn Dixie cold cuts thieves highway hand me downs’

An old image from a dusty photo album. Donated photo An old image from a dusty photo album. Donated photo

Right now, there are a handful of old cardboard boxes in the back of my girlfriend’s car. Inside the boxes are several dusty photo albums of Sarah’s past.

Images yellowed with time of long gone relatives and forgotten moments. Faces not walking this earth anymore and faces not heard from or seen in many moons. 

Sarah acquired the boxes following the passing of her father this past winter. After his funeral in Goldsboro — at a large church buffering a busy highway, tobacco fields and pork farms in the distance — the time eventually came to head to his house and sort through his possessions, the photos being the most valuable. Priceless, actually.

Like all of us, we each have our own old cardboard boxes filled with dusty photos albums. We have names and faces solely preserved in the photo frame on the fireplace mantle, the front of the refrigerator, hanging in the hallway or simply along the walls of our memory. The photos are meant to remember, to never forget and to cherish.

And with these physical photos surrounding us, I suppose one needs to be reminded, at least from time to time, about where they came from, in an effort to make sense, for good or ill, of where they presently stand and to, perhaps, answer that eternal, universal question that lies within — where to from here?

For myself, anything I ever posed for before the fall of 2004 is either tucked away in a few small boxes in a storage unit just outside of downtown Canton or on the fridge, tacked up in the hallways and atop the fireplace mantle at my parents’ farmhouse in the North Country of Upstate New York. All of which are gathering dust.

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Anything after the fall of 2004, when I was a sophomore in college at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, is on social media. The Fall 2004 semester is when I first signed up and logged into Facebook. Being one of the earliest schools to be exposed to the powers of Facebook, my peers and I clamored to immerse ourselves in this new, fascinating and utterly mesmerizing technology.

Before the advent of Facebook, we had the short-lived precursor to social media that was MySpace. Scanned and uploaded photos of your youth and youthful transgressions. Embed some of your favorite songs in your profile and select certain cronies to be in your “Top 8” section of your friends list, which usually sparked controversy in the hallways of middle/high school when someone would either be added to or dropped from said “Top 8.”

Regardless, when Facebook came onto the scene, it forever changed the landscape of society the world over. It’s a dead horse at this point about the pros and cons of social media in our fast-paced modern era. But, it’s wild to think about the starting gate of it all. Initially, it seemed a harmless realm to connect with others at your college or other institutions. Remember, Facebook was originally only intended for and exclusively used by college students.

Now, almost 20 years since I first joined good ole Facebook, there’s thousands of photos of myself archived in my profile. Two decades of social media posts, tagged images, opinions and “exciting news” shared, dedications to old lovers and new, dedications to those sadly not with us anymore, attempts at making connections to either the greater good or a deeper sense of self. On and on.

Recently, I wandered down the rabbit hole of the archive of my Facebook profile. Images from college of late night keg party shenanigans. Spring break road trips below the Mason-Dixon Line. My hair wasn’t grey yet, nor were the appearance of well-earned wrinkles. Images of running track and field for Quinnipiac, all before Father Time now has set in with foot and back issues as I approach my 40th birthday next February.

Thousands of moments captured. College graduation in 2007. Working out in the Rocky Mountains post-graduation in 2008 as a rookie reporter. Attending and documenting music festivals from California to Maine and everywhere in-between. Those two excursions to the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man in 2008 and 2009. Living and trying to find stability as a writer for The Smoky Mountain News when I first arrived in Haywood County in 2012.

A flood of memories amid an ocean of photos, most of which are pretty much digitally accessed via my Facebook profile. Whatever isn’t on there is either on my laptop, newsroom data bank or my smartphone, the latter holding thousands more images I’ve never posted or have looked at since the instant the subject was snapped.

It’s weird, you know? I just realized I can’t remember the last time I actually framed a photo, let alone developed a roll of film. Flashbacks of handheld cameras and disposable cameras. Visions of developing photos and awaiting their return from the local pharmacy in the days after a high school prom or dance, of teenage athletic competitions and family reunions. Everything is digital and, well, disposable, too, in some oddly ironic fashion.

I can’t remember the last time I opened up a family photo album. Not really sure where many of them are anymore, either. Definitely some at my parents’ farmhouse. Some have landed in the hands of other sentimental relatives. Others disappearing under the sands of time in some poignantly sorrowful gesture of forgetfulness and neglect, for what is time and place, eh?

Alas, I digress from the existential nature of my thoughts and emotions reflecting on the physical and intrinsic nature of the family photo album. Me thinks I need to download and print out some of those digital images, to purchase some frames and hang them up on the wall for old time’s sake, a smile of gratitude emerging when you stand back and take note of the image at-hand.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

Leave a comment

1 comment

  • Nice and familiar story! I'm sure a lot of us can relate to.
    I'm going thru boxes of photos letters and misc.
    This was almost like reading my mail! I look forward to putting a picture or precious few up.What do we do with all this stuff!?! God bless!!! Debbie

    posted by Debbie

    Tuesday, 05/14/2024

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