I stumbled across the picture a while ago...yes, that picture up above, and the moment my eyes locked onto the image, some pretty amazing things happened inside my brain. I immediately smelled how the old mechanic's garage surely smelled. I inhaled the aroma of old motor oil that had seeped deep into concrete and grease that had forever stained the old wooden workbench. Though you can't make it out in the image, I'm sure the floor is littered with greasy, misplaced bolts and car parts that no longer serve a purpose. Tools that only a mechanic could name clutter those shelves in an unorganized fashion and only the man who placed them in their exact spot could reach over and put his greasy hand on whichever tool he needed without even shooting a glance in that direction. Yes, I can say I have stood right there in that shop...or one identical to it once upon a time.
The only thing wrong with that picture is the car. Uncle Charlie only worked on Model T's and his shop was always filled with several in various stages of restoration. He'd always beam with pride while giving my dad and me a tour of that old greasy shop each time we visited. We finally timed one of our visits just right and before we even had a chance to knock on his front door, Uncle Charlie's head appeared from the door of his garage, a smile on his face that I'll never forget.
"Over here! You're just in time. I'm ready to start one up that I just finished!"
Minutes later, me and my dad and Uncle Charlie were cruising the streets in a Model T that surely looked even better than the day it rolled off the assembly line. And that's what I remember about Uncle Charlie. He's probably been gone forty years now...and all it took was that picture to bring him back!
My mom handed me a manilla envelope the other day, so overstuffed with old photos that one more picture would render it useless.
"I don't know who they are...family, your dad's family."
I carefully opened the envelope and scattered the photographs on the couch beside me and found myself lost in unknown history for the next two hours. Many of the old pictures were from the eighteen hundreds and progressed, I guessed, into the era of World War Two. With my dad gone now for several years, these images were only faces without a name...lost for eternity. I found myself wishing I knew more about our family. I found myself sad that I didn't.
In this day of digital images that one cannot put his hands on, I wonder...will someone decades, even centuries from now have our faces a mere arm's length away? It's certain we won't be stored away in a worn manila envelope resting on the top shelf of someone's closet. It's even doubtful that our images will survive in a junk drawer on some antique iPhone that will no longer charge. I fear that we will be the 'missing generation.' Without foresight enough to preserve our cherished moments that made life special, our future grandchildren, and their grandchildren will only have faceless names to remember us by.
And this is the 'Age of the Selfie!' Many of us take pics by the hundreds...of ourselves, our pets, the food we eat. We plaster ourselves all over social media. Some of us put our faces out there on dating sites. We have our own blogs and websites with our faces all over them. We're in the online church directory. We're in the clouds, those virtual storage lockers that absorb the overflowing images our smartphones can no longer hold. And yet, not one picture that you can hold in your hands. I challenge you! Go find a real photograph of yourself...of your kids, that was taken in the last year! I bet the farm most of you can't do it.
Do you really think your Facebook page is still going to be around a hundred years from now? Do you think Facebook will be around that long? Will cloud storage still have your cherished images safely tucked away? Will future generations be able to pick up a newspaper clipping of your obituary? No...duh! But I have my grandfather's and great-grandfather's obituary, as yellowed and fragile as they are.
My daughter studied the old black and white photo in her hand.
"He is definitely one of us. See the eyebrows?"
I nodded and pursed my lips as I stared at the handsome man in a World War II soldier's uniform.
"Look, same eyebrows on this guy! This was taken at some studio in Boston...says 1846. Did our family come from Boston?"
I smiled and replied, "No, we came from England...through Boston. Perhaps this ancestor became the first American in the family?"
I don't want to be a faceless name for future generations to simply forget about. I want someone a hundred and fifty years ago to stare at my picture and exclaim,
"Look! You got those eyebrows from your great-great grandpa!"
Anybody got a polaroid camera you wanna sell cheap?