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Film Roll Stories

by Sam Payne, host of “The Apple Seed” on BYU Radio

The daughter of a friend of mine turned 16 today. It was an occasion to celebrate with great take-out Mexican food (Emanuel’s on 9th East. These are, as you can see, awesome friends), and rifling through a box of family photos for laughs and memories (There’s one of the birthday girl as a toddler, dressed up as Robin Hood, complete with an Errol Flynn mustache. No kidding).  There was a time when photographs were more rare and more precious than they are now. These photos were like that: taken, many of them, before digital photography was commonplace, which means that the photos were taken on film, which means that they were taken and then hidden away inside the camera until the whole roll was spent, and then delivered to the local photo counter, and then (after a wait) taken carefully out of a paper envelope and flipped through, being careful to touch only the edges, in hopes that some of them turned out. 

Now, those photos – and the memories they evoke – are in some ways the prime tangible record of whatever life they depict. There’s the sweater knitted by the birthday girl’s mom. And Mom weaving a basket with daughter looking on; the birthday girl and her sister piled on top of Mom, who’s still trying to sleep. And there’s the old couch from the family room, looking newer in the photos, with children arranged on it; they’re sitting on laps, and they’ve got their arms around each other, and smiling for the camera in varying states of toothlessness.

There’s a lot of laughter as the photos get passed around. Sometimes there’s a holler of recognition at an old something-or-other that everyone had forgotten, but there it is in the photos. There are also some silent smiles. And every once in a while, there’s a tear; a hug, too, maybe.

Every photo in that box is a story. And it’s an awfully big box. And maybe, just maybe, in a closet or attic or basement, you’ve got one kind of like it.

Have fun.

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