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Connecting With Others

The smiling faces staring back caused a chill to rise up through me. A moment in time, and so long ago; they looked so alive, so vibrant, and so hopeful.

Let me explain.

Recently my son Michael and I went to an estate auction where the contents of three separate homes were being sold. As we previewed the merchandise, I happened upon a box that contained two large scrapbooks. Both of the books were crammed full of prints, pictures, and clippings from old magazines. I was immediately drawn to the box, and felt that I had to attempt to purchase it when it came across the auction block.

Three hours, and forty dollars later, I was the anxious new owner of this large package of ephemera. When we returned home, I sat for at least an hour and sorted through my treasures. I was not disappointed with what I found. On almost every page of the large scrap-books were other paper items tucked inside.

From vividly colored lithographs, to an early map; from hand-drawn pictures, to personal notes, these books were brimming with paper memories. An unknown collector who had aspired to be a fashion designer in the mid-1920s had carefully cataloged special thoughts, ideas, and celebrity photos from that era.

Slowly, carefully I turned each page, and marveled at the meticulous and whimsical way these books had been filled to over-flowing almost a hundred years ago. At one point, I discovered a packet of old photo negatives. As I opened them and held them up to the light, I noticed the form of a young man and lady (he in a pair of knickers, and she in a stylish “flapper” hat) sitting together on a river bank. They were smiling, and by all appearances they were excited to be in each other’s company.

Page after page of these books contained photos of men in stylish new dress coats, and ladies who smilingly sported debonair hats. All held a confident, carefree gaze, and all appeared to believe that life would go on forever. I almost felt as if I was prying into someone else’s life.

In my mind I heard a soft voice. “All is vanity,” it whispered. It was a strange and discordant epiphany that has hit me a number of times before when I am in the presence of something this old, and this personal. Whenever I have experienced something like this in the past, I am reminded that each one of us is only here for a short while. Life trudges on with or without us, and the best that we can hope for in this life, is to connect with someone who has eternity all figured out.

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About Michael Temple

Michael Temple

writes from Grand Forks, North Dakota.

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