Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Medias Res

I started looking at photo albums “in the middle of things” - from 1981 to 1985.  There were three albums, and it seemed like the events recorded in them happened just recently.  But they happened, in fact, nearly half a lifetime ago!  We had a foreign exchange student living with us during part of that time.  I visited him and his family this summer and he is now as old as I was when he was living in the U.S.
Events photographed during that time - besides the obligatory children’s birthday parties, Easters, Halloweens, Thanksgivings and Christmases - included a disastrous family reunion in Tennessee in 1981, during which both sons-in-law (my sister's husband and mine) became terrified of my father.  The drama doesn’t show in the photos, but the photos bring it all too sharply to mind.  I also visited several regions of the country while attending scientific meetings - in the north-east (NYC & DC), north-west (Seattle & Vancouver) and south-west.  While there, I also visited friends and relatives nearby and have photos of those visits.  In 1983, my middle daughter, Lis, became very ill and spent several days in the hospital.  The children and I visited Disney World a couple of times in the early ‘80s, once with my folks, and once with our visiting student.
Our foreign-exchange student, Guido, came to live with us in the fall of 1983, and graduated from high school in 1984.  My eldest daughter, Maria, finished Swarthmore that same year (got her B.S. a few years later after making up a P.E. requirement – another story), and my star graduate student, Debra, received her Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). So 1984 was a year of graduations.
In 1985, my cousin, John, was married (after a long, live-in engagement) in an idyllic setting in Upstate New York.  My mother and I visited several Hudson Valley sites afterwards, including the Roosevelt mansion and the home of Frederick Church, one of my favorite Hudson Valley painters.  And Arlene, one of my two best, long-time friends had a wonderful new baby as an “older mother.”  Another graduate student, Susan, received her M.S. from MUSC in 1985.
In the summer of 1985, I began backpacking to try to get back into shape after noticing the flab that was accumulating from my occupation as a sedentary desk-and-bench scientist.  The first trip was a Sierra Club service trip to Mount Ranier, not far from Seattle, Washington.  The trekking and the work were arduous, the scenery was splendid, and the camaraderie was rewarding, even though I was one of the “old ladies” in the group.  I came back from the experience psychologically (and physically) renewed.  Thereafter, I usually took at least one service trip a year until 1992, when I went to Lake Baikal (Siberia) with the Sierra Club. 
So now I have triaged photos from those experiences, saving half or fewer of them, intending to send many to family and friends.  The albums have gone out with the garbage, photos still stuck in them.  The remaining albums are stacked on shelves and on the floor in my bedroom, posing a hazard, and reminding me to deal with them or they’ll trip me up.
But that was just a five-year slice of my life.  In medias res.  May I have the courage and persistence to do the rest.

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