23 June 2009

Photos: A Gift of the Past in the Present

I offered the woman the photo album, fully expecting her to make a cursory tour and then set it aside. To my surprise she took her time and asked me questions about several photos. The album was proffered in response to her question of what had I received for my birthday. A good friend had taken an old box of photos I’d left behind in the US and had sorted and arranged them, sending me the album at great cost in postage.

“Of course I knew you must have come from family somewhere,” said my Kiwi friend looking at the photos, “but I never really thought about who they are or what they must look like. We just know you in a vacuum as it were.”

I do speak of my family when possible, but only in the sense of stories or examples or possibly if I’ve had recent news that relates to a current relevant situation. My New Zealand friends know that my dad lives in Florida and I have a brother and family in Indiana, but they don’t know them personally. It’s not like I’m unavailable for lunch on a certain day because I’m eating with my dad or can’t attend an event because of my niece’s recital. My dad eats lunch and my niece has recitals, but I am rarely there for them. Thus they don’t pop up in the everydayness of conversations.

Now my friend wanted to know more, to put personalities to the faces she was seeing. I so appreciated her interest, her curiosity, her appreciation of the connections I have beyond our shared world of NZ.

I told her of my childhood days and of Naomi, my handmade and much loved doll. There was me with my dog, my bicycle and later playing volleyball. That’s when we were camping and there’s me with high school friends and college buddies.

I loved the time and effort my hometown friend put in to compiling the album. I also loved interest and attention of my newer friend in looking in to my past and seeing the bigger picture of who I am. Both were terrific birthday gifts.

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