Friday, October 07, 2011

The Receipt

I have taken pictures all through the years.  I have my slides, prints and negatives.  I have been scanning them so that I can share them with my family and friends.  It is taking a long time, but it is worth it.  I am glad I kept everything – there must be something good said for the pack rat side of me.
Every so often, I come across something that more than sparks an interest.  It can, if I let it linger, light a bonfire of memories. This morning I came across one such thing.  It is a photo envelope from Plains Pharmacy, in Fairfield, New Jersey.  I was a priest in the parish there at the time, which, according to the date on the envelope, was August 10, 1977.  A roll of film cost $8.62 cents to be developed and printed.  It was Kodacolor film and there may have been two rolls, since there are two sleeves in the envelope that held two separate strips of negatives.  I scanned the negatives, which held memories galore.  There I am, hosting a car wash given by the youth group of the parish.  We had the wash behind the church.  I recognize the kids – now grown with families of their own.  I am still in touch with almost all of them. Looking at their faces, one by one, I can see now what they could not have seen.  Good times and bad.  Healthy and hurtful relationships and marriages.  Sickness and, in some cases, way too early a departure from this life.
There are pictures of the church as it was decorated for Advent.  Big colorful banners hang from the walls of the church.  I recently saw the woman who made them and asked her about them.  She said they were long gone.  Her name is Mary Anne and she looks well.  I will send her pictures of the banners.
And New Orleans.  I went with a couple at about that time.  It was a convention of sorts and I tagged along.  I visited family while I was there.  There is a nice shot of the couple standing next to a street car.
There are a few pictures of friends I sailed with on the Queen Elizabeth II.  We sailed from England to New York.  What a great trip that was. Some of the people in the photo have left this life.  Some are still here.  It was good to share a voyage with them across the sea.
There is the receipt.  Receipts have not changed that much.  There is a date and charge number, my name and address and the name and address of the pharmacy.  Charlie ran the pharmacy and Claire worked the register.  Charlie had a good sense of humor.  When he saw me, he used to say “Someday your prints will come in,” – a play on the similar phrase from Cinderella.  I got to know Claire’s family very well.  I am still in touch with them.
Some years later, Charlie lost the store and struggled a bit till he found another line of work.  I think he hoped to keep the store but could not keep pace with the deals being offered by the then up and coming big discount drug stores.  I still hear from him at Christmas.
There is a lottery ticket in the photo envelope from the store.  A “snap and win” lottery ticket.  I scraped off the gold on top of the numbers but in the process scraped off the numbers as well.  Maybe I won, maybe I lost.  But it makes no difference since in the small print on the back of the card, it reads that all prizes had to be claimed by December 15th, 1977.
Maybe I could have been a rich man.
But maybe I already am.
I need be still, and look at the pictures, and realize with some humility and gratitude how many people have befriended me.  I hope I have been as good and as friendly to them.  All kinds of people – photos do not differentiate between religions, creeds, beliefs, color or nationality.  Everyone has a beauty and a magic.  We each hold the charm of life and hopefully learn to share it, and, with a photo, keep it to remember.  While I have some life, some years left to me, I will take pictures, and keep the negatives, and pass them on.  They really do have something of a life, even after I am gone.

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