(This post, edited a bit, is from five years ago today, when The Mrs. and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. You can do the math.)
[Before our 25th anniversary] we went through a lot of pictures so we could put together a montage of the last 25 years, which have whizzed by us in an eyelash. . . .
I had a lot more hair. A lot. Staggering amounts of hair, on my head and on my face. I am positively bearlike in more than a few of the photos. I think I was fatter early on than I would be later in the 80s and 90s, although it might have been that I was less careful to hide it. A few of those pictures show The Mrs. with the waist-length hair she had when I first met her. Others show her during her unfortunate Afro phase, and with the big hair everybody had in the 80s. Some of our fashion choices then are not ones we’d make now—no more matching sweaters, for example—but they’re no more egregious than the choices you were making in those bygone years, I’m sure.
We also found pictures of our parents that had been taken for their 25th wedding anniversaries. “I don’t feel like I’m as old as our parents look in those pictures,” she said. Neither do I. Their generation, high-school graduates of the pre-rock 50s, often looked older younger, if you know what I mean. Page through a high-school yearbook from the 50s and you’ll see people who look 18-going-on-40, ready to jump into lifelong employment selling insurance or raising a family. Which many of them did. (One of my favorite pictures of my late mother-in-law breaks that mold; in it, she looks precisely like the young, trim, and athletic woman she was at the time, and not like a matron in waiting.)
We’ve had nine addresses, in six towns, in three states, so we found ourselves looking at backgrounds, too: “Is that Central Avenue or Jefferson Street?” “Remember the kitchen in that place?” We looked back on eventful vacations, wild weekends, old friends, departed relatives, and other characters and events of our life together.
We’ve upgraded to digital cameras and cellphone picture-snapping now, so we’ll be preserving our next quarter-century’s memories in digital form. But just as there’s tactile pleasure in handling old vinyl albums, there’s similar pleasure in flipping through actual photographs. They come in different sizes and shapes; some are bent or faded or torn; some have thumbtack holes where they once hung on a bulletin board. As I hold them, I actually find myself recalling not just the events shown in the photos, but where they used to hang and other times I’ve handled the photos. It’s all very meta, but whatever it is, I don’t think it will be the same with pixels and bytes.
In 2006, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris released All the Roadrunning, an album of adult love songs that consciously distanced itself from the most of the usual moon-June cliches. One of the finest tunes on the album is about flipping through old pictures and seeing your life reflected in them—an appropriate song for this day.