I thought it was about cleaning out the garage and tackling a long-postponed task--going through the hundreds of old photographic slides of my early adult family life and the lives of my wife and children.
They've been sitting out there in the garage for a decade, gathering dust.
Remember the slide shows? One of the first I remember was when my uncle Mike came to our Albuquerque home in the very early 60s. He'd been teaching in Ecuador, and brought some slides of his trip to Peru and Machu Picchu. We set up the slide project and screen in the front room, and watched slides until early morning. I remember because after midnight, Mom made scrambled eggs and bacon.
I'd forgotten about that until I started going through Mike's travel slides this week, sorting and discarding. I inherited them after his death, and they'd been in the garage. He had about 15 trays of slides out there, from his world travels.
Right next to them were the stacks of my slides, which I started taking just before I got married in the early 60s about when Mike was taking his. Slides seemed the obvious choice--they didn't fade and were cheaper than photo prints. Given turmoil and passing time, I've put off going through those slides, but I've realized as I age, that my children need copies of these, so today, I grabbed one tray and started going through them. I didn't stop.
Remember the slide tray carousels that held up to 100 slides? I couldn't afford the Kodak that held 80 slides, and bought a Sawyers that held 100, and fitted in vertically. Kodak's fit on top of the Ektagraphic projectors. Compared to today's projection systems hanging from the ceiling, and powered screens that lower from the ceiling, they were clunky. But unlike today's Powerpoint presentations, that commit blasphemy by using the term "slide show," very little copuld go wrong. Sure you had to level the projector on a table. Then you either hung a sheet from the wall, used a blank wall, or erected a clunky tripod based screen to show slides on. About the only worry was the projector bulb going out, and whether you can put the slides in right side forward and upside down. The remote was attached by a wire and always worked.
In recent years, Mike had to buy projectors and parts at pawn shops. Now they're cheap and available on ebay, labeled "vintage." I guess I'm "vintage." I gave away his last one recently, but I've got about 15 of his carousels sitting in the garage, next to several of mine, empty now.
The memories aren't empty.
I brought all those slides in, and held each one up to the light, squinting away to see which ones to keep and not. I've found photos of my Mom and Dad and grandmother with our kids, my wife's parents and grandparents, our wedding, our moves to Iowa and back, places we traveled like Canada, New Mexico, Missouri, Texas, and our children, from a disproportionate share of the first born, but including them all, up until the last batch, when my daughter was a teen. There are glimpses of houses lived in and cars owned. When the world seemed simpler and full of hope and future.
"I guess I'm 'vintage.' "I've tried to sort them, disposing of the ones that have faded or don't mean anything, writing some on the paper or plastic borders. I am reminded of why I chose slides, because, after 40 and 50 years, most of them still have excellent color. Remember the terms on those borders, always neatly numbered in the paper or plastic cartons of 20 or 124 they came in? Kodachrome, Etachrome, Anscochrome. Made in USA, Made in England. And the labs that did the work, like Owl in Weatherford, and Fox.
Now they're in stacks or a couple of the slide trays. I'm getting ready to have them scanned to DVDs so my children can have copies of all this family history. They'll enjoy most, and perhaps grieve over some...as I have. I hesitate to send these off, to let them out of my hands to scan into digital form on a DVD, but it'll take me too long to handle more than 600 of them.
It won't be slides I'm putting in the mail...
It's time and memories.