Let’s Talk with Diane A.S. Stuckart

PICTURING THE PAST
By Diane A.S. Stuckart

I admit it. I spend far too much time procrastinating on Facebook when I should be writing my next novel. And, no, I’m not busy promoting my books there. Instead, my preferred hangouts are those pages where followers post all manner of things strange and unusual. (Why? Because, to quote Lydia Deetz from one of my favorite movies, Beetlejuice, I myself am strange and unusual).

Those odd finds tend to be made at antique shops and thrift stores and garage sales, and sometimes even on the roadside. But with the recent stay-at-home orders that precluded shopping, one particular group I belong to didn’t want to encourage folks to break quarantine. And so they decreed a temporary hiatus on the weird stuff. Instead, they asked the group to put up interesting vintage photographs of their family members along with an anecdote about the photo’s subject(s).

People rushed to do so, and we soon had a group consensus. It turns out that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were far cooler and tougher and more interesting (also prettier and more handsome) than we modern-day schlubs could ever hope to be.

Looking at my old family photos, I have to agree with that sentiment. One of my favorites shots is that of my paternal grandmother as a cutie back in the 1920s. Grandma Smart—or rather, Anna, as she was known back then—is casually posed with a Model T, one foot propped on the running board. From the next decade is a photograph of my Grandpa Frank Smart’s soft drink bottling company complete with delivery truck. But the ultimate in coolness is the fabulous snapshot of my mom, Helen, looking like a bathing beauty as she poses in her swimsuit at an Austin, Texas spring in the 1950s.

In these days of smartphones, we have digital pictures capturing every facet and practically every moment of our collective lives. And I can’t deny that it’s rather awesome to be able to document our existence so thoroughly. But it’s not quite the same as sorting through a box of old photographs. An Instagram shot of me holding a giant frappe last week doesn’t have nearly the impact of the faded black-and-white Polaroid of a eight-year-old me holding a stringer of fish. In fact, that plucky little girl looks pretty darned cool…and tough…and interesting. At least, that’s what I hope my middle-aged descendants will say one day when they stumble across that box of vintage pictures of me and my siblings!

So, do you hold onto your old family photos, or are you digital all the way?

 

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