I’ve always had a fascination with old black and white photos. A trip to the Cracker Barrel can send me to another time staring at the wall pondering who those strangers are and if they ever imagined that photo would be looking down on me as I enjoyed my country ham and eggs.
This particular photo is one of my all-time favorites, the faded brown and the worn cracks accentuate its nostalgia and appeal. A snap-shot of two men who never did anything particularly special. They never made millions of dollars, didn’t create a start up, never invented a cellphone app, and will never be talked about in elementary school history books.
From the late 30‘s this picture, of two brothers and their canine companions, encapsulate a time when life didn’t revolve around one’s profile status or latest tweet. When celebrity antics weren’t the center of our culture and children’s role models were people who actually contributed to society instead of tearing it down. When people sincerely wanted to know how their neighbors were doing instead of hiding behind closed garage doors and pulled curtains.
Theirs was a different time where how you lived was more important than where you lived; when people could be counted on always and not just when there wasn’t anything better to do. It was a time when one’s word really was their bond and a handshake was a solid as a 100 page legal contract. The picture’s lack of color brings the unassuming character of those days into stark focus, where a young man could hold a shotgun, wear a 3-piece suit, and not be attacked for having an identity crisis.
And though I never lived then, I nonetheless find myself missing those days deeply.
I would like to have been these boys’ friend. I would like to have asked, on that sunny day, where is he going in that suit? What are the names of the dogs? Do they have love interests? Do they ever get scared about the future? Do they want children? What are their goals and aspirations? What do they do for fun and would they take me along. I want to see their world, go to their favorite hunting spots, fishing holes, and meet their friends; or just sit under the shade of an oak tree and talk.
Though what I wouldn’t tell them is that there will come a day, in their not-to-distant future, when these boys’ wisdom and experience will be sought after and their approval will be cherished. That they will have a generation of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who will carry memories of them to the corners of the globe. That their impact on others will go far beyond their mortal years.
Maybe age brings a desire for the good ‘ole days but looking at this black and white photo my soul longs to experience that time when my son could spend all day playing in and exploring his world without feeling the need to continuously peek out the window to check on him. I wish for the time when my daughter’s self worth wouldn’t be influenced by magazine covers and obnoxious pop stars, and that boys would naturally respect her for the woman she will become. When our need to be liked would be less important than the hope to be respected and eye contact with a stranger wouldn’t be avoidable by imaginary text messages; and economic recessions and cultural depressions were less troublesome than a neighbor’s well-being.
I’m certainly not naive enough to believe that our culture will suddenly wake up and realize how much we gotten wrong. I know that tomorrow morning the rat race will still be in overdrive and ‘getting mine‘ will be our cultural mantra.
But it is nice to dream, even if it is in black and white.
(dedication to all of my grandparents, I’ll see you again someday)