Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I wasn't prepared...
I was prepared for the worst. I had water and gloves and tools to scrape the mud, garbage bags in which to put the broken picture frames, tables to lay out the photos. But I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I opened the first bag.
I'm ahead of myself--
I was moved to volunteer with the cleanup, and came in contact with Kathryn at Daring Young Mom she referred me to a cleanup volunteer who had the photos. She came with 4 bags and 2 boxes, the bags were mostly pictures in frames, old 70's high school pictures, a black and white or two, and lots of snapshots. I was amazed to see that under an inch of gooey mud, they weren't in too bad of shape. Water really isn't an enemy to a picture, they are developed in liquids, and as long as they don't dry out in this condition, they can be cleaned and made right again. I started in on the first pile. I had glimpsed a black and white in the bag and thought I ought to start on the oldest ones first. They seemed to be the most precious, I guess. I had to break the frames in order to get the swollen cardboard backings off. I rinsed and scraped, peeled and rinsed and got to the glass and the picture. Sliding my putty knife along the edge of the glass, out came an old gentleman in a grey flannel hat, with a distinguished looking mustache. The photo was in nearly perfect condition.
Encouraged, I plunged onward, releasing brides and grooms, babies with moms, and school agers from their muddy prisons.
What I was not prepared for as my tables filled up with faces, was the surge of raw emotions I felt as I looked on literally decades of photos nearly destroyed by the raging waters of winter rains. It broke my heart that though these pictures are now relatively safe, I know of many others that didn't have the chance to be brought out of their mud covered sepulchers.
If I have learned anything worthwhile in all this, it would be to spread the word that if your pictures are precious to you, (and why do you take so many of them if they aren't?) then treat them like family. Don't store them on the ground floor if you live close to water of any kind. Make duplicates and store them off-site, a safe deposit box, or relative's home. Don't print your pictures at home!!! I know, this one may sound really terrible, but don't, don't, do it! Pictures printed by developers with the right equipment, can be rinsed, even brushed with a soft paint brush under water without fear of ruining the photo. But those pictures that you think will be just the same if you print from home, won't be "just the same" after sitting in mud and then being cleaned. They won't be there at all.
I rinsed and rinsed for about 5 hours tonight, my counters and 4 tables in my home are full of faces I know nothing about, families I don't know, children who are grown up now and have children of their own; water skiers, cruises and boat rides, Mustangs and Harleys, babies and grandparents, toddlers and toys; but mostly my tables are full of hope and rebuilding.