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Waxing nostalgic in hard times

April E. Clark
April in Glenwood
April Clark
Staff Photo |

I am wistful in about everything I do.

I’ve held on to many of my old vinyl records over the years, even though I don’t have any way to play them. I can hold my Michael Jackson “Thriller” album in my hands and feel the rush of being young and in love with the King of Pop.

I still like to pretend I put the P in “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).”

I can’t help but wax nostalgic about the ’80s. Those were the days when I truly believed the storyline to “Pretty in Pink” could happen to any old awkward redhead crushing on the hottest guy in school. Or that the plot to “Sixteen Candles” could actually come true. Why wouldn’t the cute high school quarterback want to surprise me on my Sweet Sixteen with a romantic kiss over a birthday cake?

It could happen.

Those John Hughes-inspired teenage dreams of geeks becoming popular and homemade pink prom dresses making jaws drop are probably why I hold on to the mementos from the past. Like the lyrics Archie and Edith Bunker sang in the opening to “All in the Family,” those were days.

I wonder how Archie would react to social media.

In an effort to preserve a past that seems as ancient as a joke on Meathead’s behalf, I store boxes of pictures frozen in time in bulky photo albums and paper envelopes. There are pictures of me and my eighth-grade girlfriends before winning the lip-sync contest in 1985. And shots of my perm-haired tennis team as we played our regional rivals in the sectionals in 1989.

We were winners on the court and in the hair department.

I should probably lessen my lifetime load by scanning the photos and burning them to a DVD or downloading them to a drop box stored in the cloud. But it’s the feel of the old photo paper in the hands that brings back memories like my old “Thriller” album. This is going to really show my age, but I remember the days when photos weren’t instant. They took days, sometimes even a week, to develop at the drug store down the street. Selfies — what we old-timers called self-portraits — were a virtual crap shoot. We didn’t know how or if they turned out until we excitedly opened the paper envelopes to reveal a stack of often-blurred or dark photographs. If more than half of the pictures were visibly legible, it was a photographic success.

There was always a good chance the tip of a finger would make it into the frame.

Lately my family and I have been going through my grandparents’ lifetimes of photos and keepsakes that sat on their shelves or were displayed in their curio cabinets. We lost both of them within five months of each other and the wound their departure has left is still fresh. There are hundreds of photos of Grandpa Bud driving his Kroger semi-trucks or winning an award, a feat at which he excelled. He won so many awards and earned so many badges and patches, we don’t know where to keep them all. If he wasn’t investigating a fire or mastering a truck rodeo he was helping honor the World War he helped fight in the Navy or writing to his elected officials. His life was dedicated to service, and it shows with all the mementos and photos he has preserved over the years.

And now it is our place to honor him and his life.

As a family, we’re discovering that it’s never easy to go through a household and condense two people’s lives into boxes or separate their many treasured items between people. Deciding what should be kept and what should be auctioned or donated is all part of the cycle of life. That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult. I know stuff doesn’t make the person, but what we leave behind is a way for the generations who follow to know anything about the family who came before them. Hopefully my descendants will see my things and know I was more than just a girl with a perm.

Maybe they’ll hear P.Y.T. and think of me.

— April E. Clark might have to watch the “Thriller” video again this week to get in the Halloween spirit. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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