Monday, October 24, 2011

Out of the Closet

'Nights are long since you went away..
I think about you all through the day.
..My buddy, my buddy,
 your buddy misses you...
Gus Kahn wrote these lyrics way back in  1922, but the sentiments are repeated in farm homes every fall when the greens of summer fade and the behemoths of harvest emerge grumbling and whining from metal sheds.  Magazines and newspapers pile up on the table and favorite TV shows queue up on the DVR. As the days wear on, the cooks scramble their brains and surf the Web for something, ANYTHING new and different, palatable when lukewarm and possible to serve in a Rubbermaid container.  The mantra begins:  when we get done with harvest, we'll.............

Cell phones and XM have lessened the isolation of the guy in the combine from home and Fox News, but bringing in the sheaves still leaves the folks on the home front with lots of "free" time between meals and at night.  After the leftovers have been stowed and the trash disposed of, the laundry hauled from the basement and the mail sorted, the sun may be down, but there are hours, rather than miles, "to go before I sleep."

What to do, what to do. Kids and women of all ages have packed up to visit pumpkin patches and parades.  We've had movie evenings with chick flicks and musicals. Reading, writing, washing windows, hanging pictures: so much more time for fall cleaning than spring. 

In that vein: pull out the hobby mess that has languished all those lovely balmy evenings of summer.  Behind closed doors in my living room resides half a lifetime's photo record, stacked willy nilly in unsteady sedimentary layers under the assorted dress coats and jackets.  There are thin albums with yellowing edges holding the little square fading Instamatic pictures of our early married years.  It was a big event to finish a cartridge of film in those days.  My Instamatic used flash cubes; holidays required careful rationing so that film and flash came out even at the end of the event.   

It was a marvelous birthday when I got my first SLR in 1982.  The first roll of pictures documents two little girls playing under the falling golden leaves of the silver maple in the front yard of our house on 4th street.  The amber sunshine, the red plant shelves, their bright smiles all blaze from the prints in the slightly more real than life hues of Fujifilm.  

There is no rhyme, reason, or particular rationale in the albums, but I can begin the sorting process by remembering which album style followed another.  There are square fake leather post albums that hold a mere two prints a page; these are late '80s and early '90s models.  Much of the nineties is contained in Hallmark post albums with colorful fabric covers.  They are oversized in more ways than one. Each page hold four or five prints, but I have extended the binding beyond all reason and many of these albums are more like antique folios: the story is told leaf by leaf held between covers only by gravity.  Some sturdy but elegant albums were another online purchase.  No adhesive here: the photos are sleeved.  Very efficient but not conducive to souvenirs, brochures, maps, and the other ephemera of travel.  One of these albums is devoted to our only overseas trip, a 2005 family odyssey to Ireland with Millie, Charlie, Nancy, Kevin, Blake, me and the three youngest boys.In these albums are pictures of at least three graduations and two weddings.  These albums blend seamlessly into the smaller albums of Target provenance.  Holding 250-300 photos, they are impossible to overstuff and stack firmly.  But they are indistinguishable from one another; it is quite possible to lose track of what exactly it is one is looking for while going from album to album. Aaron makes his first appearance in one of these faceless albums.  And after him....the deluge.

Clearly, this is all terribly anachronistic.  Blake gets a great deal of pleasure from his tall tales of my digital photography.  I guess he has the right: he bought me the digital camera in 2008 after Lizzie, Gabe, and Abbie came along, after Ben and Kenzie were wed, and before our second sailing cruise.  (To be honest, I don't think I took MORE digital pictures than I did print the second time.) He insists FedEx brings me yellow Shutterfly envelopes on a hand truck...or perhaps it is a Yellow Freightline truck with a pallet jack and a forklift..........well, you get the picture.  Firm in traditional storytelling mode, he accompanies these tales with exuberant hand gestures and exaggerated eye rolls.  

The price I pay for being the family historian.

At any rate, the closet in the living room was good for several evenings of harvest entertainment.  Some albums encompass no more than the month of December: Farm Bureau Annual meeting, the Live Nativity, preschool programs, cookie parties, wrapping presents, trimming the tree, untold instances of culinary creativity and consumption. The creative destruction and general hilarity of multiple Christmas day celebrations. All recorded, year by year, every one precious.  

Now they are stacked in chronological order, more or less, earlier to later, back to front.  To an untrained eye, the whole arrangement may not look like much progress.  But that's how it is with harvest activities:  some are more productive than others; some more practical.  My scrapbook project is finished for the time being.  On to another time honored harvest past time:  home improvement!

....the paint samples are in the back of the car.............

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