After living on a farm since they were married in 1954, you can imagine Cheri’s folks were able to accumulate a significant amount of “stuff.” Now that they moved into town, and Cheri’s dad passed away, and Cheri’s nephew is starting to do renovations on the home, Cheri’s mom has for three years been undertaking the massive work of clearing out and sorting out the stuff. She’s done a good job, but like anywhere, once you remove the big boulders, you then notice how many smaller ones, and tiny ones remain.
Cheri and her sister went up to see Cheri’s mom, as I mentioned earlier, and like most every time, she ends up bringing different items back with her. Small plastic grocery bags of a variety of items, from old documents to other bits and pieces of things – and photographs. Under the threat of Cheri’s mom saying that she might just throw everything out (for the first time in 67 years), the last few visits have been to look at old photos, and, with her mom’s wishes, Cheri has continually culled out pictures of her past, and the early days when I entered on the scene. Now, my lovely wife and I will have been married for 40 years this coming June, and I chased/pursued/wooed her for four years prior to that event, so I’m sure you can surmise a couple of things about those pictures. One, I can barely remember the context of any of those photos. Of course, there are tons of shots around gift giving episodes, and a ton more where people are eating. Also, I am constantly amazed at the practice not only in Cheri’s family, but I believe families across the world, of never throwing a simply bad picture out! I mean, you are not going to get perfect shots every time, but you know the ones I am talking about – just horribly bad, ugly, probably-shouldn’t-have-taken-in-the-first-place 4x6 disasters. I know we have done that in my own family of origin – just bad photos – blurry, or ones in which there are people standing, and the photographer managed to get the entire scenery (like the side of a house) included, which reduced the individuals to tiny spots on the photograph. Or, like I said, photos of people eating. Enough said.
The other thing about old photographs is that it seems you always look better in those than what you look like in real life now. Honestly – I was thin, and toned, and bright-eyed. So far different from the haggard, worn out, overweight and “please don’t take a picture of me now…” individual that I see in the mirror. There sure are a lot of miles on those tires…
Now, it’s a truism that when most women see themselves in the mirror at a glance, their first response is “Oh no! Is that REALLY what I look like? Eek!” and most men will look at themselves, and say, after a moment, “Hey – not bad…” as they only want to see the “good parts.” However, after a few moment – the worst is when you have to try on clothes in a three-part mirror in the store – most men and some women simply make a renewed commitment, and even a vow, to live in a world with no reflections…
I should say that it is also very important, when you look at old photos, to only look at them with the right people around you… people like your wife, who will ask, “Do you remember that sweater you were wearing? I liked that one…” instead of a comment like, “Boy – you were thin back then…” Never look at photos with your children, either small or grownup, or with any so-called friend or relative who uses a picture as ammunition. Again, it’s like having a world without mirrors. No one alive will look at an old photo of themselves, and not immediately see the differences. Babies and little kids are cute, and now and then you will get an attractive teenager, but after that it’s like sliding down a muddy mountain trail, hitting all the tree roots along the way.
I guess it’s also important, like most things in life, to take yourself lightly. Be intentionally kind to yourself and others, and let the past be the past, and even today, look deeply inside, instead of at the trappings. That intention provides a picture of grace and love, instead of ridicule or condemnation. We need each other, but we need the best of each other. We also need to just throw some old photos away!
Word for the day: catoptromancy. Pronounced keh-TOP-trow-man-see. It sounds kind of Greek, doesn’t it? And it would look even more so if we were to replace the “c” with the original “k.” Katropton is a mirror, and mantea is the ability to divine, or use divination. Therefore, catoptromancy is the ability to tell the future, by looking through a mirror at things like moonbeams or water. The old queen in Snow White said, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…” yep – she was a catroptromance. It’s not unlike the word “haruspex.” Which is a job in ancient Rome. An official would tell the future by looking at the entrails of sacrificed animals – especially livers. Haru means “gut,” and spex means “look.” Imagine asking a little kid what they want to be when they grow up. “I want to be a haruspex!” I think I’d stick with mirrors…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.