100 years from now, no one is going to care who I am. I know this. I don’t mean that in a bad way and I don’t say it in the hopes someone will contradict me and shower me with praise; this is not said as compliment bait.
No, I say it because it’s true. 100 years from now, no one is going to care who I was. The same probably goes for you, too. In fact, with a few exceptions, it goes for most people. Command an army, serve as president, discover the cure for stupidness… history will remember you. But for most of us, this simply isn’t true. History won’t remember us. The wonderful every day glorious things we did: raise a family, work hard, bake a mean apple pie, help our neighbors…these things will never make it into the history books.
But when it comes to our family, well, that’s a little different. They are the people who could very well remember and more importantly, WANT to remember. To them, we will be part of that marvelous root system from which future generations sprang to life. We will be part of their story, whether they like it or not. I mean, you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family, right? You are stuck with them and they with you. And most of the time, that’s a pretty great thing.
But what will they know about us? After all, time has a way of blurring the details. Family stories get changed, ever so slightly, with each telling. It’s to be expected. Tales are told of my Sicilian grandfather, Carmelo, who played poker with his Sicilian “friends” in the basement, and how each put their gun on the table during the game so that no one would end up the casualty of a sore loser. It’s a great story-no wonder “Goodfellas” is one of my favorite movies.
And while stories like this are a part of how I know a man I never met, I know him more from photos like this one: a man playing a banjo, his vineyard behind him, a dog at his feet.
In fact, I know more about my Sicilian grandfather from this one picture than I do any story. I look at this image and see a man who loved music enough to pose with his banjo; a man who loved his dog and whose dog clearly loved him (check out that adoring expression) a man who was poor but donned a tie and hat because obviously, this photograph was important; a man who smiled at a time when smiling wasn’t “cool.”
No one but a handful of people in the world care about this picture. But to that handful, this picture is everything. I don’t have many photos of my grandfather. Photos were expensive and my dad’s family were dirt poor, so few pictures exist of this wonderful man and his wife and their 13 kids in their house on the hill in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. But with this one photo, I feel like I KNOW my grandpa.
How are we known, my friends? We are known by what we leave behind. Print the memories you want to preserve.
About the author: Missy Mwac is a photography satirist, a lover of bacon, a drinker of vodka, a lover of sparkle, and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can connect with her on her website, Tumblr, and Facebook. This article was also published here.