I am spending a few days with various in-laws or as we four sister-in-laws call ourselves, the outlaws. As I've gone from house to house visiting, sharing meals, and sitting in amazement over how tall kids can grow in a few months, I've really noticed our family photographs. Hundreds of them. They are on book shelves, refrigerators, pianos, side tables, bulletin boards, wall units, key chains, calendars, souvenir mugs, and even on walls. They are framed in natural and painted wood, brass, fake brass, silver, chrome, plastic, fabric and cardboard. The frames are oval, rectangular, square, magnetic, matted, and double matted. Some frames are definitely dollar store products (I may have sent a few photos in these now that I look at them) and some are quite obviously purchased from one of those good gift shops where one might even register for china.
As my daugher and I have gone house to house we've taken a great walk down memory lane looking at all the pictures. She's noticed she wasn't in some of the large group family photos. I explained the timeline. She is fourth youngest of 12 grandchildren who range in age from 11 to 29 years old. We took lots of pictures before she came along. I've really had fun telling the stories behind the shots. I really hate to admit this. Especially as I think about how resistant most of us were most of the time to having many of the photos taken in the first place. Are all families like this? You know the situation. We have a family gathering. We're having a good time. Grandma waves and insists everyone huddle together and smile so she can get a picture, capturing a moment she thinks is special just because we are all in one place. We sigh, roll our eyes, whine, "Grandma, not again!" while she repeats, "Oh come on, come on" and we humor her out of respect for her age and desire for memories, arrange ourselves, smile, crack a few jokes, and she snaps away. We thought she was a little overzealous with that darn Kodak.
Now, I'm actually having happy thoughts about each of those pictures. As I'm writing I'm in a living room and there are over 100 photographs I can see. My three girls have their own shelf and this isn't even at Grandma's. I'm beginning to feel a little guilty because I don't have 1/5 of this collection in my living room. Maybe not in two or three rooms. I certainly haven't given my three nephews their own shelf space. I don't like too much clutter, but do these photos qualify as clutter? Am I depriving my relatives and my own immediate family of happy moments by not framing those images and displaying our history? I'm really pondering this.