March of the family photos

It was time to bring some order to our jumbled story.

I finally got around to organizing 10 years of photographs. They had been crammed into our antique secretary like acorns in a squirrel's mouth. Then I moved them to a bunch of storage boxes in a dank, dark basement closet because I was so tired of looking at them – to say nothing of how unattractive they looked: thick, little packages shoved in glass-enclosed shelves that are supposed to house lovely looking things, not photo packets from the drugstore.

I always thought I would put them in albums. I was pretty good about it after the birth of my first daughter, Erin. I kept up with the empty albums that were lying around to display our life. In fact, I had a special one just for Erin: her first year of life all on show in a soft and pretty pink book from Hallmark. I had similar intentions for our son, Brett, born nearly two years later: another cutesy photo album, but more masculine in color with the obligatory teddy bear on the front. Somewhere between 3 and 6 months of age, his album ended. Oh, there were plenty of blank pages to fill, but I never got around to it. I'd intended to fill out a bunch of family albums from the hundreds of glossy prints showing our evolution from younger-but-tired parents of small children to older-but-tired parents of rapidly maturing children. But I kept putting it off.

A few months ago, Erin, now 14, must have been bored because she purposely went looking for these half-assembled albums. I supposed she hadn't looked at them in a long time. It wasn't long before I heard her laughing and chortling from another room.

"Oh my God, Brett was so cute," Erin said. "Brett, c'mere!"

I didn't know she was so interested in pictures of her family. Her life seemed to revolve around instant messaging, vigilant maintenance of her iTunes account, and endless late-night journal writing. Sometimes it felt as though the rest of us – mother, father, and brother – were just extras in the movie of her life. But here she was, drinking in these pictures over and over, as though she'd discovered gold.

Soon, four plastic storage boxes from Target, each the size of a cocker spaniel, were brought upstairs from the basement. Where would I begin?

I'd purchased a couple albums to get started. To think I'd get this done in a single evening was the equivalent of calling Moby Dick a page-turner. No, this would take many evenings over the course of a month and several return trips to Target to get additional albums. It turned out two weren't enough. Neither were four, five, or six. Eventually, I filled eight albums with the pictures that had been lingering in the shadows.

So many memories came with each photo. Every birthday with the same cast of characters: adults, alternately bored and animated, scattered throughout the living room as kids opened presents. There were a silver Power Ranger and a wicked witch sitting on the floor, surrounded by Hershey's, Sweet Tarts, and candy corn on Halloween; vacations the kids deemed "too educational"; Brett during a tantrum; Erin's carefully posed Barbie collection in front of an N'Sync poster during her stint as an amateur photographer; bubble-bath bathing suits; a bed-and-breakfast in Beulah with a dog named Michigan.

Finally, I was finished. I had put as many pictures in order as I possibly could, although I skipped around in spots. Did it really matter if the photos from the "Spring Sing" appeared just before Brett's birthday in June and again after Christmas?

After I was done I kept looking through the albums over and over. And I couldn't help but think: We're having a nice life, aren't we?

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