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A Gallery of Memories : Some Old Treasures, No Matter How They Clutter a Wall, Cannot Be Tossed

September 23, 1990|JACK SMITH

I HAVE BEEN TRYING to think of what we can throw away to lighten our impedimenta when our remodeling is finished and we move into our new quarters.

You might think that with more space we would have no need to lighten ship. But I see it as a way of getting rid of all the junk we have acquired over 40 years. I have already suggested several perfectly obvious kinds of things that never would be missed: first, my wife's 1,000 cookbooks; second, her hundreds of old magazines; third, many of her clothes. She will not budge. We don't even talk about it anymore.

On my part, I have already given away several hundred of my books and plan to give away more. I have given away several suits and shirts. I also had decided to throw out a few thousand of my columns that my wife pasted up in notebooks, but she has already rescued them and photocopied every one.

I was in my wife's room watching TV today, and, during a commercial, my eye happened to fall on the gallery of family photographs on her wall. Why is it that women insist on displaying photographs of their relatives?

Nothing would be less likely to be missed, it occurred to me, than that gallery.

I studied them individually. When photographs have been up on a wall for years, one never notices them. I looked at some of them as if for the first time. Their range, in time, was incredible.

Of course, nothing can be done about the obligatory photographs of our grandchildren. They are shown at various ages and in various combinations. I suppose some place will have to be found for them.

But why do we have a picture of me and my wife, obviously a posed portrait taken by a professional photographer, when I was in my Marine uniform? Oh, I agree, we were quite handsome, but why must one be reminded of that?

There is also a portrait of my wife's father and mother in their wedding clothes. I suppose it is precious to my wife, and I could hardly ask her to toss it.

For that matter, I am rather fond of a snapshot of my mother and father, taken in the 1920s in front of our house. He is wearing a sporty suit and a Panama hat. I imagine his Chrysler roadster was parked nearby.

There is also a framed snapshot of my wife and me in Copenhagen on our way back from Russia. I am amazed at how good I looked in that Russian hat. I believe it was a worker's hat.

Some of them are silly. There is one of me, for example, taken when I was living in Hawaii. I am standing in my swimming trunks beside a palm tree. My hair is tousled from a swim. I have a hibiscus over one ear and am holding another in my teeth. My hands are clenched behind me to emphasize the musculature of my chest (which wasn't much). Well, nothing would be lost if that picture vanished, but I suppose it means something to my wife.

A rare picture from my own family album shows me standing on a bench beside my mother. She was quite beautiful, and she wears an elegant gown of lace. For a 2-year-old, I look extraordinarily intelligent. That picture, too, was obviously posed for a professional photographer. The only thing I can remember about the circumstances is that my shoes belonged to my cousin Betty Mae; mine were too scuffed.

There is a tiny snapshot in an oval frame of a small boy and girl walking off down a sidewalk with their backs to the camera. The girl wears a white dress and a pinafore; the boy wears a sailor suit. The girl has long curls and a large bow. They are holding hands: my brother and sister walking off to school.

There is a picture of my wife in jodhpurs, leaning against a fence. That reminded me that we once owned a horse that was blind in one eye and had only one gait--a full-out run. But at least my wife was properly attired.

A large, framed picture shows our sons sitting on the back steps. Their clothing is in tatters. They look like children of the Depression. Our younger son is wearing shorts and a ripped white T-shirt. I remember he was attired like that one Sunday when my wife drove to The Times and sent him up to the newsroom to get some money from me. When he left, my col leagues took up a collection to buy him some clothes.

There are pictures of our two sons' wedding parties, framed in gold.

Oh, well, throwing them out was probably not a very good idea.

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