Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hello, My Name Is ____

When I am offered a “Hello My Name Is ___” label I will often politely decline. I don’t live under any delusion that everyone knows who I am – I actually prefer anonymity to recognition – but I just don’t like that whole labeling thing.

I have been told I am “supposed” to stick the label on my left lapel (or maybe it’s my right) so people can read it easily when they shake my hand. It seems rather forced and artificial. Plus, I think I can do a better job on my own without the promptings of a mass-produced, throwaway badge. So I usually put it in my pocket which of course means I will be labeled anyway (non-conformist, trouble-maker, and rebel).

But I think labels are more than just a good idea when it comes to photographs. It is an odd thing – you take a picture to capture the moment, or secure the memory, but what if your memory fades, or the people on both sides of the lens are no longer living?

Rhonda has been sorting through old photographs for our daughter’s upcoming wedding. Normally I look through pictures as if I were dealing cards – but when it comes to old family photos I slow down a bit. While she looks through hundreds of pictures for wedding photos of parents and grandparents (I think we are having a wedding theme for the wedding day) I dutifully sit there and try to answer her questions.

“Is this your Mom’s dad, or your Dad’s dad?”

“No, I think it’s my Mom’s mom’s mom’s dad.” I answer correctly, if not annoyingly.

These are some old pictures. Fortunately, through some careful, albeit amateurish, detective work I am able to name many of the people in the pictures. This is because some of the photos were labeled many years ago by someone who recognized that time fades memories.

“Grandma’s mother remarried after her father died, so I think this is her mother’s second husband’s nieces or nephews, or maybe her half-brothers or sisters. Then again maybe they’re just neighbors or friends.”

“Are you talking about your Mom’s mom or your Dad’s mom?”

“Try and keep up OK?”

But for others their stories may be lost. There are several pictures of a wedding reception held outdoors. Judging from the military uniforms it appears to be take sometime in the mid-1940’s. The happy couple is standing next to a wooden chair. Seated in the center is the wedding cake which is about to be ceremoniously cut. Apparently all the tables were used in the war effort and the chair crop was very good that year. Judging from the pictures, the newlyweds seem very nice, and I would like to claim them as my cousins (removed or distant), but for now they will remain lost – and yet frozen in time.

I have no idea who some of the people in the photos are, so I am taking some liberties and coming up with my own ideas.

“Isn’t that William Strunk and E.B. White looking very stylish in their element?”

“I’m sure that must be Ingrid Bergman behind those sunglasses.”

Rhonda and I have many unlabeled pictures lying around. We know all the people in them (well most of them) so why would we bother to record their names?

Just ask us – we’ll tell you who they are. But hurry up as I’m not as sure as I used to be.

Many photos are recorded digitally and I imagine that there is some way to label them digitally as well. But just to be sure, on the day of the wedding I think it would be a good idea to have people wear some kind of label – not for introductions, but rather for photo identification purposes.

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