Del Hayes Press

Why don’t you love me?

Today, Valentine’s Day, is all about love. But sometimes, we don’t feel loved. There’s a story I heard, years ago, about a little girl who was very unhappy, because her parents didn’t love her. “Why don’t you love me, like Billy and Mary Ann?” she asked, her eyes as accusing as they were moist with tears.

“But of course we love you. Why would you think we don’t?” was the mother’s plaintive response, as she was quite distraught by this accusing question from her little doll. But…there were pictures of her older brother and sister as babies, but none of her as a baby, proof positive to this trusting child that they were loved, but she was not.

Turns out, the mother had dropped their camera, about the time the new infant arrived, breaking it. Unable to afford a new camera at the time, there were, indeed, no pictures of the little girl until a new camera could be afforded. We each seek our own proof that we are loved, and can all too often let ourselves be hurt by unfortunate misunderstandings. On this Valentines Day, that will likely be repeated, all too often. That story, and the importance to that little girl of pictures of her got me to thinking about how great a role pictures play in all our lives, and how much the simple task of taking a picture has changed, just over my lifetime. What better time to reflect on the love shared through old photos than this Valentine’s Day?

Well, there are also no pictures of me, as a baby. There are no pictures of me arriving home from the hospital. One reason for that, of course, is that I was born in our house. But there are no pictures of me wrapped in swaddling clothes, being held by a proud new daddy, or mommy. Until I was about two years old, there are no pictures of me. The first I found was of a tow-headed little me standing by the left rear bumper of what I assume was Dad’s car (a handwritten note on the side of the picture identified it as me, but I know it has to be me…that’s the way I always stand). The year on the picture is 1938.

There was a sense of drama that accompanied taking pictures, in those days of film and negatives, and prints. Putting a new roll of film in a camera was almost like starting a new novel. What story was that roll going to tell, what events, what emotions, were to be captured and saved? Then there was the posing, the framing. Is everybody in the viewfinder? Will I miss anybody? Everybody squeeze in, I can’t see Bobby. Is my shadow in the picture? Did I remember to advance the roll, so there won’t be a double exposure?

Everybody’s camera, back in the day

But…there are also no pictures of Don, my older brother. There were no pictures of any sort, not until some years later, as Mom never had a camera, back then. In fact, a lot of people never had cameras, back then. It was not until Kodak came along with the ubiquitous Brownie Hawkeye, with those black-on-yellow rolls of 620 film, that taking pictures became commonplace. And yes, our parents loved us. The irony of all this, I think, is that taking pictures has become so easy, so much a habit—or obsession—that actually having the pictures has lost much of its significance.

35mm Single Lens Reflex; what we all wanted

As cameras and film improved, we began to have to worry about shutter speed, aperture openings and focal length, over or under exposure. We bought  light meters, and talked about ASA numbers. Should we buy 400 speed, or is 200 okay? And then came color film, wonderful, marvelous color, and Kodachrome, and 35 millimeter, single-lens-reflex cameras. Who could forget the smell of the flashbulbs, when they flashed? It was wonderful.

Of course, there was always the dilemma of how many exposures on the roll of film should be purchased. A roll with only 12 exposures could be quickly finished, so prints could be made. But 24 exposure, even 36, let us get a lot more pictures. But what if we took only a few on a new roll? Why, we might have to wait weeks to finish the roll, to see the prints.

Finally, there was the great reveal, the denouement. The exposed roll was carefully removed from the camera, then taken to the drug store to be sent off for development. Days later, they were in our hands, ready for the first viewing. Negatives were always there, ready for more prints to be made, if desired. We took them from the envelope, and began to look at them, one by one. And oh, the emotions they brought with them.

“Oh my, don’t they look great? Such a good picture of them.”

“What’s this one? Where was that taken, do you remember?”

“Oh, no! I can’t believe it. My finger was over the lens. I ruined it, and I so wanted that picture of you.”

Sometime later, after the reminiscing is done and supper dishes washed and dried, the photograph album, with its simulated leather cover and “Memories” embossed on the front, would be brought out. Little decorative adhesive corners would be put on each corner of the photographs, so they could be carefully mounted on yet another page of that album, pages that became slices of life.

Old Photo Albums; memories preserved in black and white

Sometimes, when the pictures were from family far away, from a son in Europe during the war, who never got to come back, we would just sit and look at them, putting each one at the back of the group as we went through the roll, one by one. Then, they would be silently put back in the envelope and put in the dresser drawer with the others, to be taken out again later on.

Then there would be those occasions, for example after the funeral for Grandma was over and the graveside burial service done, when the family would be sitting around the living room, just “remembering,” and someone would ask,

“Didn’t Grandma and Grandpa take a trip to California, when they were first married, driving that old Model T, or whatever it was? Didn’t she have some pictures of that?”

Back in the bedroom, the big storage trunk with its oval top and leather straps would be opened, the beautiful hand-made quilts that were supposed to have been given to the granddaughters but were too precious to risk using, would be taken out and carefully laid on the bed. And there would be the photograph album, carefully preserved, awaiting a time to be opened once again.

Then, all would gather round the table, looking, remembering, reliving, that life from long ago.

“How on Earth did they make it all the way to California, in that old car?”

“And look at Grandma. They really did wear those white dusters, when they went driving. I guess they had to, since the car was so open, and the roads weren’t paved.”

“What I want to know is how Grandma got Grandpa to leave the farm long enough to take a trip like that. He didn’t even like driving over to Scott.”

And so it would go, almost reverently at times, as each page of the album was turned, each old black and white memory examined, remembered, laughed at, cried over. Those pictures brought some little piece of a life now gone, but not forgotten, momentarily back to life. Then the album would be laid back in its resting place, beneath the beautiful quilts, waiting to once again, sometime, bring those memories back to us.

On special occasions, a sheet would be hung over the living room curtains, the 35mm slide projector set up, and with the lights out we would breathlessly view the wonder of Kodachrome slides, in all their high-resolution glory.

“My goodness, they just look so real, in those pictures!”

Now, we flick our thumbs, rapidly scrolling our magical phone through its vast horde of twelve-megapixel pictures, not bothering to look at any of them while looking for the one we can’t find in the masses. Oh, sometimes we use Airplay and let them auto-scroll through on the 50-inch flat screen, pausing now and then to glance at one as we pass by, headed out to the kitchen. But mostly, we just have them, there on our phone.

There is a scene in the remake of the movie, Sabrina, with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond, that sticks in my mind. He has asked her to take some pictures of his Martha’s Vineyard cottage. She asks if he wants her to take a picture of the surrounding water, boats and other houses. He nods yes.

“Which one?” she asks.

“All of them,” is his response.

She smiles at him, in obvious disagreement.

“More isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes it’s just more.”

That, I think, is my issue with the amazing technology of our modern camera/telephone gadgets. And I love mine. Wouldn’t be without it. Yes, we can take more. Of anything, of everything. And we do. Hundreds of them. But sometimes, more isn’t better. It’s just more.

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1 thought on “Why don’t you love me?”

  1. Excellent piece, Del. You have included photos of my 1st and 3rd cameras, both of which I still have.
    I still use a camera, although it’s digital now. I refuse to adopt Satan’s Tool, the ‘smart’ phone – now or ever.


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