A few weeks ago, I was scanning in some old family photographs; something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, and noticed writing on the back of some of them. These were old “heirloom” photographs – pictures of my grandparents when they were young, of their siblings, and a few rare ones of their parents (my great grandparents) – proper old stuff.
One really stood out to me. A picture of my grandfather, with a note on the back saying “This is my husband to be. Please send the picture back to me again.”
The word ‘kiekie’ for ‘photograph’ made me smile, because of the association with that generation (not a word commonly used today), but also because of its onomatopoeic value, mimicking the sound of a camera shutter “kie-kie”.
I realised that my grandmother must have sent this picture by post to someone; maybe one of her sisters, and asked them to please return it to her. It must have been her first and only picture of her fiancee at that point. I can image her holding it to her chest.
I often see piles of old photographs in markets; family pictures, baby pictures even, and wonder at what point they were abandoned to strangers. When the ones they were valuable to were no longer there? Would my sister’s kids see any value in pictures of people they never knew? I doubt it. I knew some of these people as a kid though, and to see their faces is to almost hear their voices; my grandmother shouting “bok” (a term of affection) across the yard to call my grandfather.
We share pictures within seconds across continents now, often of truly inane stuff (I’m guilty myself). It is a great thing to me, to still have photographs be treasured things with notes on the back saying: “Please send this back to me.”