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Sorting old photos has been more telling than I expected. First it’s amazing how the photo world evolved. From little square photos of hazy resolution to rectangular photos with crisper images.  We can see exactly where we got a decent camera. And where they started offering higher quality “max” film. Photo albums went from sticky pages with a film cover (those were a pain to take apart) to albums with slip in sleeves. We also got better at taking photos. Closer shots, better expressions.

And there were more personal tells. People came in and out of our lives. Here’s the couple we met on our cruise and the one visit we made to their house. I wonder what happened to them.  Here’s a former neighbor, a former co-worker, some people we went camping with once. And then there are those we’ve known a long time with cherished photos showing our kids’ growing up together while we also aged as friends. In those photos, I can be transported back to a conversation or a birthday party in a heartbeat.

More startling is what I don’t remember. “Who is this couple?” I asked. My husband stared at it a minute and then shrugged. “I don’t know” he said. At first I stood there holding the picture unsure of what to do. But then I thought, “Who am I kidding? If I don’t know them now, I’m not going to remember them in 10 more years,” and tossed it out. Or “I don’t remember this,” I said as I looked at a picture in which I stand smiling as I lean against a railing. “What boat were we on?” And thankfully (I think), he remembered enough details to make it sound vaguely familiar. Or so I told him as I freaked out a little about losing my mind.

The best discovery, though, came from the collective review of our years together. You can see it all in the eyes.  “Starry-eyed in love.” “Wide-eyed expectant parents.” “Bleary-eyed new parents,” Glassy-eyed robo-parents.” “Steely-eyed I’m-on-to-you-parents.” “Teary-eyed transition parents.” (and back to) “Starry-eyed empty-nesters.” We have definitely done the family thing. There was the starter auction house, the rental duplex, the suburb house for a growing family and more. There were many cars, sport uniforms and events, holiday group photos, hair styles and fashion trends (and no, you can’t see those), and even a few vacations.

We stopped at one point and said to each other,”We didn’t do too bad, did we?” It’s so easy to remember the failures, the missteps, the “Geez I wish I could do THAT over” moments. But in the compilation of memories we can easily see that there were many, many things we did alright. Our kids had decent childhoods. We figured out this thing called marriage. There have been great friends in our lives and there was love. A lot of love.

And that makes me glad we’re doing this difficult project. These are good stories. They’re our story. And that’s worth preserving.