By Joe Rector

Amy and her cousins met on a recent Sunday in Cookeville. They shared a wonderful spread of fried catfish, hush puppies, and French fries, accompanied by sweet tea and banana pudding. After all pushed back from the tables and patted full bellies, they attended to the business of the get-together: sharing family photo albums.  For the next couple of hours, the crew looked at photos, asked questions, and related stories. By the end of the day, all left with smiles on their faces and memories overflowing in their hearts.

All of us should take some time every so often to pull out the albums and boxes of photos. Something magical happens. Looking at those old pictures puts smiles on our faces. We remember those vacations with family. In others, we recall the monumental birthday party or a graduation day. More recently, some of us can look at hundreds of pictures of newborn babies. Most of them are ugly little creatures, but in our minds, they are the most beautiful creations that have ever drawn breath.

Some of my favorite pictures are from childhood. Frozen in time are grandparents, cousins, parents, and brothers sitting in our front yard. Black and white photos have tinges of yellow from age, but being able to see once again everyone together is comforting. Several photos are of my parents and brothers on Easter. The camera always came out on that day; we boys had new outfits, and Daddy put on his best suit. He rarely smiled in pictures, but it was easy to see how pleased he felt to be with his family.

For some reason, my favorite old pictures are of Jim and me as we grew up. Both of us were unfortunate looking little people. Our heads looked too large to have been supported by slender necks. In later pictures, our stomachs grew so that we wondered how such skinny legs could prop them up. Pictures of us riding bikes in circles in the basement or wearing cowboy outfits complete with holsters and guns bring back smiles. So do the ones Mother snapped of our friends and dates before proms or during our 18th birthday party. It all seems to have taken place just a snap ago.

Maybe what we all would like is to be able to jump into some of those photos and hit the “run” button. For the next while, we’d be able to once again have time with the folks in those photos. I’d like another chance to sit on the towel atop the ice cream freezer as some adult cranked the handle. Then I’d spend a few minutes running and playing with cousins in the yard. It would be wonderful to have a family photo come to life just long enough to give special hugs to Mother and Daddy and my brother and to tell them how much I love them.

My goal is to pull out those pictures and share them with them my children. I want them to know who the people are in the photos and then share some tales or information about each of them so that they don’t die with me. I’m sure a couple of tears will fall and smiles will spread across my face as I look at the faded photographs. Most of all, I just want to remember-good and bad times, all the things that have made this life of mine be such a glorious adventure to this point.