Photos are important to me

Published 1:13 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I am a photo fanatic.

I’ve got this one of my oldest dressed up as a hula girl – complete with a coconut bra and lei – for Florala’s June 24th Anything Goes Parade.

There’s one of my middle child taken on her first day of kindergarten. I love it because it captures the how the tilt of her chin says she’s ready to take on the world.

My youngest will forever be immortalized in Audrey Hepburn sunglasses with a gap-toothed smile.

I have one that I (shall we say) liberated from my mother that shows her with long auburn hair and dancing shoes.

I only have one photo of my father, who died when I was 18. It’s one of him in his Army uniform that I inherited when my grandmother passed.

He was a man who hated a camera. He never liked having his photo taken. If I think back hard enough, I can catch glimpses of photos I’ve seen – one with me on his knee when I was about 6 and another where he wears a forlorn expression and is surrounded by Iraqi sand.

At one time, I’d had a photo in which he’s actually wearing a smile and looks happy. It’s hard to see the white of his smile for the shadow of his hat, but it’s there. Armed with a lasso, he’d meant to bring home our wayward horse, Dusty, and someone – probably my mother – captured the moment.

That photo traveled with me from one rental house to another after he died. It made the journey to Troy University, where it was pushed into the corkboard of my desk.

From there, it made the journey to the University of West Florida, and when I got married, it was moved from the corkboard to a frame and from a box to our new home in Lockhart.

But when all the boxes were unpacked, it wasn’t to be found.

I was heartbroken.

Flash forward 12 years, and I walk into my oldest daughter’s room at her dad’s house. There, on a bookcase tucked neatly between the volumes, was the photo.

I managed to keep from snatching it and holding it tight against my chest.

Her father said he found it in an old box of things he’d uncovered over the weekend as he handed me an envelope. In it was my father’s old high school football mug shot and a newspaper clipping of me from the kindergarten Easter egg hunt at Lake Jackson, and another of me sitting at my grandmother’s fireplace before at a Sweetheart Ball some 15 years ago.

“I’m keeping those,” my oldest girl said in a tone that booked no discussion.

“Deal, if I get to hold on to this one,” I said reaching across her shoulder to take the photo in my hands.

“I want it back,” she said. “It’s important to me.”

I smiled and thought, “It’s important to me, too.”