The most nerve-wracking part of coming back from Philadelphia this week had nothing to do with the weather, the road conditions, or even the fact that every moron in America has a driver's license and the roads are just packed, packed, packed. Those things you get used to, especially that last one. I've long felt that driver's tests should include a segment entitled, "How Not To Be Stupid" and that if you failed that part you would never be allowed onto the nation's roads again. Depending on how badly you failed, you might not even be allowed as a passenger. No, the thing that made the ride more of an adventure than usual was the fact that I had four plastic bins full of history in the car with me.
The running theme of this past weekend was photographs.
At the most basic level there was the fact that both my brother and I were there. Now, I take a lot of pictures - not for nothing am I known as "Nuisance Man" at family gatherings. Keith, though, puts me to shame. He is a photo ninja, a Diamond Jim Brady of photographic excess whose works can be stacked up and thumbed down to make a decent flip movie, or could if he weren't also a ruthless editor. I am in awe of this, a piker at the feet of the master. So there were a lot of photos taken at this birthday party is all I'm saying.
Also, and not surprisingly, the gift we settled on for Dad from his children and their families was one of those digital photo frames that you can load up with pictures and watch them scroll by. The original plan was to have 70 photos, one for each year of age, but neither Keith nor I could limit ourselves to that number so the total ended up being well over 160. But those frames are amazing - they just chug along, going from one photo to another. The photos ranged from a school picture from 1948 or so right up to one of Lauren and Grandpop playing Battleship last Thanksgiving - a photo that I published here on this blog on about that day, as a matter of fact - and I hope Dad has as much fun looking at it as we did setting it up.
But there were other photos, and older.
Keith has been diligently trying to reduce the piles of random albums, shoeboxes and envelopes stuffed with family photos - mostly on Mom's side, since they tended to hang on to things more than Dad's side - into an ordered collection for some time now, and he has gotten this project almost completed. Or at least he thought he had - never underestimate the ability of our family to have more random piles of stuff, as we discovered this weekend. But there he was with a giant bin of newly arranged albums, as well as several more full of old framed photos. It was a sight glorious to behold, really. We spent a fair amount of time looking at them, and when I excavated the box full of Grandmom's old photos from an upstairs closet, well, it was like stumbling into the Lost Dutchman's Mine.
Prior to the Recent Economic Unpleasantness, the plan was to have all of these photos professionally scanned so that everyone could have a set of them. That's on hold now, but Keith and I talked before I drove out and we decided that since I have a nice new scanner - and have actually figured out how to use it - perhaps I could take over that chore.
And thus it was that I and my bins were headed into the sunset on Monday and Tuesday.
It's nerve-wracking to do that, really it is. Suddenly every rest stop is an Arabian oasis of thieves. Every brake light up ahead is a harbinger of some fiery wreck that will magically reach out and burn over 100 years of family history. Fortunately, the bins were plastic so there was no need to fear my travel mug of tea.
But here they are, safe and sound. This year, my project is to get them all digitized and sent off. It's going to be a long, detail-oriented project, and I'm just the kind of nerd who will enjoy it.