By Marla Boone
Back in the olden days, like when the century began with the number one, photographs used to be printed on paper. A person did not need a phone to have a collection of pictures. Interestingly enough, the paper collection is called an album, just like on the phone. There the similarities end. Pictures printed on paper are bulky and fade over time. But those are not the biggest drawbacks with them. The worst thing is, a person will look at photos taken years ago and say “Who/what/when/where was that?” Back in that innocent time, people resolved to go through their albums and label the photos so the piercing questions of who/what/when/where would be answered. Then, just like today, the road to hell was paved with those good intentions. Sure, people intended to identify everything in their albums before they forgot, but then they got busy digging bomb shelters or mastering the hula hoop and Plop! there was another brick in the increasingly sweltering pavement. Photographic subjects remained anonymous, giving future generations the golden opportunity to look at pictures of people who could very well be their ancestors and say, “Please tell me I’m adopted.”
The idea of labeling photographs (or not) arose lately because, in a moment of desperate searching, I had to go through (cue scary music…dah, had, DAH) my box of keys. I was looking for my spare car key. You have to experience losing your car key in Detroit at three A.M. only once to transform yourself into a confirmed spare key carrier.
This is how bad things are at my home. In my key box, I found a note that said, “More spare keys in hutch.” This indicates two things, both of them sad. (1) I had so many spare keys I couldn’t get them all in a single box and (2) I sold that hutch over five years ago, which rendered the note moot if not more ridiculous than (1).
The key box held a third unhappy revelation…most of the keys were just like their orphan brethren, the photos: unused, unlabeled, unidentifiable. Those few, those happy few that actually bore labels were, shall we say, not at the height of currency. Seven of them were for airplanes that have flown off to new caretakers. Four of them (three of them duplicates) were for hangars I no longer rent. One was a key to a hospital at which I quit working in 2013. One was a key to a hospital at which I quit working in 1992 (I swear I am not making this up.) Very tellingly, having something like a thirty-two year old useless key in my house was not cause for surprise. Only embarrassment.
It’s hard to throw keys out because illogic is stronger than logic. You think you should keep a key to an airplane that you weren’t terribly fond of in the first place just in case you buy it back. A three-decades-old hospital key might be useful to sneak in after visiting hours. Never mind the hospital in question isn’t even a hospital anymore. In illogic-land the possibility of illicit visits still exists. This is the kind of convoluted thinking that leads to multiple boxes of keys.
One of the unlabeled keys probably fits my back door but it’s too cold to go check. The others, without a clear function, went right back into the box. At least now, it’s just one box.
I still have paper photo albums, full of subjects I fully intend to make note of and some of me. They’re so much fun to look at. In this shadow world of the 1970s, I’m young, smooth-skinned, and oddly dressed. To prove irony isn’t dead, in the 70s we, every single one of us, dressed oddly to show what non-conformists we were. My hair, like every other female’s is long, stick-straight, and a color not found in nature. All that is missing is some kid saying, “Please tell me I’m adopted.”
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today