Photographic Memory Jolts

There’s nothing quite like a trip through a pile or album of old photos for bringing back memories. I recently ran across this shot of my own family, taken when I was about twelve. Oh, my, do the stories flood back! Here’s a list, in totally random order, of some (excluding the obvious stories describing individuals:
  • The record player — a gift to my sister and me from Santa Claus when I was in first grade. That memory leads to Victor Borge’s recording, It’s In the Book, and the day my little sister repeated some words she had misunderstood from that story. Rather than “Of all the stupid audacity ...” she said, “Of all the stupid odd assy ...” Needless to say, that didn’t sit well with Mother. Which leads to stories of other things that didn’t sit well with Mother. And then there were the children’s records with stories and songs that we nearly wore clear through with repeated playing. Some of those records were plastic coated cardboard, others were Little Golden Records. The record player Christmas was in Cushing, OK, which is quite a story in and of itself ...
  • The gray sectional couch with the black limed oak corner table — which sparks stories of furniture and room décor through the years.
  • Tray on the mantle — Mother painted that tray, which reminds me of stories about her extensive skill in various craft mediums, and those stories could fill volumes.
  • Hardwood floor — typical of all government housing in Los Alamos, which included all the housing in Los Alamos, which is another story.
  • Mother’s jump suit — quite the fashion right then, and one of the very few clothing items she had in those years that she didn’t sew herself. Those who have read my books and follow this blog are aware that Mother and sewing are a hot topic in my writing.
  • Saddle oxfords — worn by my sister, and nearly every girl in America at that time. Which leads to stories of polishing shoes in general, and the special challenges of polishing saddle oxfords and the pair of Ivy League saddle oxfords I had that sported tiny buckles in the back. And that reminds me of the orange shoes I had in sixth grade that looked like pumpkins and didn't quite match each other and ...
  • My hair — I had just read an article in American Girl Magazine on how Natalie Wood used a hairnet to set her hair around cotton wads and Scotch Taped her bangs in shape as they dried. Which brings stories to mind about wanting to look like a movie star, and my adventures reading that magazine, and the modeling classes Mother arranged for my sister and me to take, and winning the scrapbook contest, and ...
  • Glasses — I hated wearing glasses! And there are so many stories about them ...
  • My bare feet — my preferred footwear in the house and outside in the summer. I often went barefoot in the snow to keep my good shoes dry, like the time ...
  • Family dynamics — The way this picture (taken by my paternal grandfather who was a professional photographer) is posed, facial expressions, eye direction — all these cues and more tell volumes about the way our family related to each other.
  • Fireplace — reminds me of trips to the mountains to cut wood and picnics, how pitchy pine burned, the fragrance of piñon pine smoke, learning to build a fire, Girl Scouts, and more ...
I could write for a whole week without running out of ideas, just from this one picture. As you can see, each item leads to other memory clusters, so I might keep going for a month or more. I strongly encourage anyone who suffers writer’s block to haul out some photos. You should experience relief within minutes!

Write now: about a picture from your past. Include the picture with your story, and explain details in it. Tell when it was taken, explain the occasion, and elaborate on details in the picture.

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal

2 comments :

JoJo said...

It is TREMENDOUSly pleasing to have come along for the ride thru your evolution as a personal historian. You give me the sensation that personal histories are a treasure while my own little stories have cowered in a shadowed uncertain corner. Thanks! ~ JoAnn

ybonesy said...

I missed this post when I visited your blog yesterday. I LOVE the photo, and then when I read the details you recall, it makes me love the photo even more.

Also, your exercise reminds me of one we did in one of my first Natalie Goldberg classes. We brought with us a photo from our childhoods. Then during one of the writing practices, we described what we saw in the photo. Some wrote from an external description viewpoint, others added much more interiority. It was a great exercise.