After my first marriage broke up most of my life was boxed up and then hauled around from one short term place to another. Most of what was left of my life was shed - first all my books and sports gear then most of my cameras and musical instruments. Eventually it was down to just a few boxes of papers and photographs.
These then sat on a shelf in the shed of the house we have been renting for the last four years. I've not looked at any of it for something like ten years and some of the papers in there i've not looked at for maybe twenty years.
I'd been planning to put all of the old family photographs together to take back to New Zealand and give to my ex. The opportunity has recently come and with it also the incentive - for it is likely that i will be moving to a distant country and i do not know if i will ever get the chance again.
So i bought a photo and slide scanner on eBay and for the last four weekends i have been scanning pictures and documents going back more than sixty years. The first day of it drove me to whisky. It was too much - yes there was joy at seeing all the wonderful old pictures of my children when they were young and my wife when she was lovely - but with every joy came sadness at the lost family. After a few hours each new photograph brought more joy and more sadness than i could stand and i sought solace and numbness in Jim. It does not take much to trigger my need for escape and each of these two or three thousand pictures was itself enough.
The following weekend was little better. The third, well i was starting to get over it, and by the last weekend i got through it all sober and happily through with the task.
I can't say i did a perfect job. Most of the photographs were unordered and i had to guess what year each was. At times i was gauging the year by the closeness to a major event like the birth of a child - so seems to me when i look at them now that there's a lot of pictures around the years of the birth and fewer after. It's not that i took more pictures about then - it's simply that the years between seem empty and so my allocation to years has echoed that feeling.
The next job will be to pass all the prints and slides to my ex. Maybe somehow she can aid with getting the years right. After that when or if i ever get the chance i might go through the thousands of negatives looking for great old pics that might have been lost or given away.
Wish me luck :-)