In my basement I keep a box marked “precious memories”. Stored carefully inside this carton are relics and artifacts from my childhood and memories of relatives and ancestors long gone. I’ve kept a cap that was knitted for me by a grandmother when I was an infant, the Baby Book that my mother so thoughtfully created in my first year, medals from grade school band contests, poetry published in college, cassette recordings of my grandfather’s marvelous piano playing and decks of cards that were another grandmother’s favorite.
The box sits quietly on a shelf in my basement and remains generally undisturbed. These aren’t things that I bring out to show company at dinner parties or even items that I want to display on a shelf a wall. This one box, a microscopic space relative to the world in which we live, is extraordinarily personal and important. There are but a handful of people who share these memories and, consequently, understand their importance.
Also included in my Precious Memories Box are photos … dozens and dozens of photos … of relatives and loved ones, friends, neighbors and colleagues that I’ve encountered on my journey through life. There are photos of ancestors that I never met but of whom I have heard countless stories. Whether of my father with his first car, the house I grew up in or my great-grandfather in his overhauls, each photo contains a memory.
Imagine the excitement felt by Anton Orlov of the Photo Palace blog when he recently discovered World War I-era photos in an antique stereoscopic camera. Orlov found the photos (below) by accident while cleaning an old camera that he’d bought at an antique store.
"While viewing the images in their negative form it was difficult to say for sure what was on each of them, but after scanning them it became clear that they dated back to the First World War and were taken somewhere in France." Anton Orlov
Apparently, Orlov has found undeveloped film inside old cameras before, but never images like these. The eight images, which he scanned and published on his blog, seem to be almost perfectly preserved. While these photos might not contain meaningful memories for anyone presently among us, they certainly offer a unique view of history in a most unusual manner.
Last week, one of my beautiful and wonderful cousins asked me a question about our grandfather that I was able to answer because of the box in my basement. She is one of the handful of people who share these memories and it warmed my heart to have a reason to dig through that box. It felt like a mission of shared love, appreciation and respect and I was glad that I could help. Every time I see those things in that box, and smell the smells, I can hear in my mind the sounds of my childhood and I’m reminded to count my blessings.
Seeing photos of war-ravaged France makes me count them even more.
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