Old Photos

sarxos-Simple-Folder-PhotosOld photos stalk my mother’s house like tigers.

They lounge on her buffet, tails flicking with nervous energy. They sprawl across her shelves, paws curling and uncurling in anticipation. Their eyes track our every movement.

They are everywhere.

They pad softly in our wake when we wander from room to room and when we turn to catch them at it, they freeze in their frames.

They may look innocuous but we know better. My mother’s photographs lay coiled as tightly as springs – waiting for the slightest mistake.

They usually do not have to wait for long.

Inevitably, one of us will always say something stupid, like how we skipped church that week – that is when they snarl and pounce.

“Say, would you like to see some old photos?” my mother will ask her grandchildren.

They are no fools, they understand the subtext and gleefully accept the invitation.

Mother then matches the album to the transgression.

For minor infractions, she lets loose the tabby cats of our younger years, exposing our bare bottoms and toothless grins for ridicule.

But for serious offenses, she calls out the big cats. The leather bound volumes of our teens and twenties. These are always good for a howl.

It is not so much the big hair and garish color of our youth that is humiliating, it is the hubris that goes with it as if there was nowhere for fashion to go after peasant blouses and bell-bottom pants.

Then out come the stories.

How one brother once opened his wallet at a church dance and a condom fell out into Sister Alice Gertrude’s lap.

Or the time when another brother tiptoed up to bed after stumbling home drunk — only to learn he had snuck into the wrong house.

Despite having heard these stories a thousand times, our children still squeal with delight.

Though we protest when she does this, complaining that it undercuts our authority, she doesn’t listen.  For her, this is all good fun and it is fun for the kids too – until she unleashes her cats on them.

“Oh don’t laugh too hard, my dears,” she says, “your parents keep scrapbooks of their own.”

Author: Almost Iowa


36 thoughts on “Old Photos”

  1. Your mom is one smart lady, i love her style. When you were young you thought the pics were for a sentimental old lady. Instead, a wily opponent was stocking up her arsenal.

  2. Loved this. Your words always make me smile. Personally I don’t’ have an issue with old photos of me. It’s when people snap their sneaky smart phones at me today, catching me side view with mouth hanging open, looking as if I should be on a leash.

    1. Me too…Wilhelmine. When Scooter looks better than me, I get jealous. I don’t mind him being a beautiful dog, but I do mind it when he looks more human. 🙂

  3. No matter how many times thw ‘who’s in trouble’ or ‘who screwed up’ family tales get told everybody loves ’em (including those who protest the loudest).

    1. Whenever we protested our punishment, our parents would say there were making allowances for the things we got away with. That would shut us up, because we were getting a deal. If they knew what we actually did…..

  4. I agree with Don about your opening line. The punch line is perfect, too. Way to wrap up a great story!

  5. This is absolutely the best opening line: Old photos stalk my mother’s house like tigers. It has everything an opening line should have. Described the piece and made me want to read on. I swear you just get better and better. One of these days you are going to be the betterest. If I had any complaint, it is to say that this should have been your Mother’s Day post. 🙂

  6. Repeating family stories over and over through the years is what establishes that precious feeling of connectedness that binds all healthy families. And what up with the 1970s? That may not be the decade to which you refer, but I cringe at those photos of me. Actually the 80s too…..why the perm, Barb, why the perm? And the shoulder pads…..must stop now!! Loved this post, Greg, you are so darn good!

    1. And what up with the 1970s?

      The world would have been better off had we skipped the 70’s. The only good that came of it – was that the popular music was so bad, I took refuge in classical music. Something I still enjoy today, though it drives my wife, my children and grand-children up a wall.

      1. But, but, but….what about Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young? I loved them then and still do. I am a huge fan of classical music myself and very much in the minority around here.

      2. The popular music of the 70s was so BAD? Greg, I’m taking back “A.I.”. Good grief. Barbara brought up one fantastic group, but what about Jethro Tull and their Aquaman and Thick As a Brick? Stevie Wonder and his everything he did back then. Santana. The Who and Tommy? The Stones and the whole Sticky Fingers album? The Steve Miller Band? Sly and the Family Stone (OMG, for “Hot Fun in the Summertime” alone…that song kept me alive one summer)? Edgar Winter?

        I’ll stop now.

        1. I definitely agree about Jethro Tull [as he breaks into an air-guitar rendition of Locomotive Breath], still the good could not redeem the bad.

          1. Maybe I didn’t pay attention to the bad. Or, perhaps you thought the others I listed were included in the bad, in which case, there’s no helping you.

              1. Teeth now hurting, shoulders raised with cringe reaction, and eyes wincing. Like nails on blackboard, or their homophonic partners being driven into ears. Please let us never speak of this again.

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