Empty Photo Album
by Pearle Harbour
As we debate what has happened to our children and how to fix it, why do we not discuss our families? As we discuss what to do about fathers' rights and childrens' rights, why do we not discuss memories lost forever in a maze of endless court battles and rewritten history? Why do we not see future tears and sadness of those who will have no photographs to pass down to the next generation?
Photos that were never taken at those birthday parties. Photos never taken at graduations. Photos never taken at weddings, births, and family reunions.
When our children one day ask about their family tree, will it be without photographs and names of the non-custodial side of their family. Family members who were callously eliminated from their childrens' lives by a custodial parent and an uncaring legal system?
Picture this -
One day your child says to you "where is our family album? I have to do a family tree for a school project." Or one day, your child simply asks to see pictures of their relatives.
You take out your family album, and your child begins to turn each page. A look of confusion covers their face and their eyes look sad. "Where is my daddy? (Or mommy?) Where is Grandpa and Grandma Jones? I see Grandpa and Grandma Smith, but where are the pictures of the rest of my family?
Do I look like my daddy? (Or mommy)?" your child asks. What do you answer to a child who waits for an honest answer from a parent they trust and love?
When I open my family album, I can revisit my past. I can see where I came from, and there is no doubt who I look like. I can look at my father and remember a strong, hard working, loving father. A father who taught me values, morals, and to fight for what I believed in even if people throw stones. I can't imagine not having pictures of my father in my family album. Some day I will lose my best friend, my father. To never be able to see his face again, if only in a picture, would be tragic.
In my family album, I can see the mother who gave birth to me and made sacrifices for me. A mother who knew and understood that her daughter didn't always listen to her advice. I can see a strong person who I'm sure I caused pain from time to time as I grew into an adult. Never once did my mother abandon me when I made mistakes in life. Every day in this harsh world of ours, I thank my mother for teaching me how to be a lady, a woman, and an independent person.
We cannot bring back the past, nor re-create special and important events in our childrens' lives. Once a graduation has taken place and a father (or mother) wasn't there to have their picture taken with the graduate, we cannot recapture nor conjure up these lost images. How sad they will one day wonder why there are no photographs of the other parent or other relatives whenever there was a special occasion in their lives.
When I open my family album, I can see very special grandparents I dearly miss today. Grandparents who loved me for myself and expected nothing in return but love. They were there when I needed support, another shoulder to cry on, or another perspective on life. My grandparents passed on to me in story and pictures my family history and family legacy. They enabled me to keep my family history alive in my heart, in my memory, and in pictures.
Who could forget my great-grandfather and our trips to the old soda shop in town. While I sipped on my soda, I watched other grandfathers playing checkers and talking about the good ole days. So many memories time cannot erase. My great-grandfather told me all about my great-grandmother whom I never got to meet. Whenever he talked of her and touched her photograph, his face would light up and his eyes would tear up as he spoke her name even 20 years after her death.
Too many children are left with empty photo albums before they were given a choice. Before they were given a chance to know the other parent and other relatives. No one asked these children if one day they would like to see photographs of their other parent and other family. No one thought these children would care.
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Copyright 1999 Pearle Harbour
Not to be reprinted without the permission of the author.
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