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There are seven photographs in a box. Seven photographs in a single old box, a box of pictures that holds all the memories of a life. They are pictures that wouldn’t make it in National Geographic, wouldn’t make it in a local newspaper, wouldn’t even pull an A in a high school photography class. They are taken by a grandmother and a child and a version of every age in between. Simple photographs of people, places, and events with fading ink and torn edges. In the grand scheme of things, they mean very little to very many people, yet it is the absolute joy they bring to a single individual that makes them more valuable than all of the money in the world.

To the casual observer, the first photograph is of a woman on a swing with a baby on her lap and it means nothing. It may be an antiquated advertisement for bleach, for the woman’s shirt is spectacularly white or it might even be a postcard from an old plantation bed and breakfast. To the old woman who took the picture more than eighty years ago, it is the first picture she ever took and the only surviving picture of her mother and deceased baby brother. It is the picture that can fight through the clowded memories and take a solid grip on the past to remind her of growing up a lady in the South.

The old woman takes the second picture out of the box, one that seems even more inconsequential than the first: a pretty teenager in cap and gown, diploma in hand. Really, it seems like nothing more than an aging graduation photo that can be seen in every home of every suburb and city. Yet, the woman see’s her own potential in the photo, recognizing the fact that she was the first woman in the town of Auburn, Alabama to graduate high school. The old woman smiles to herself and still wells up with pride when she see’s the picture, a single vain feeling of superiority she relished her entire life. It takes a while, but she eventually places the photo back in the box, her only motivation knowing that the next photo is just as sweet.

The old woman picks up the third photo in the box and recognizes her young self adventuring alone through Europe in order to gain the necessary adrenaline of naïve youthfulness. Photo three reminds her not only of her intelligent, rebellious self but of the man behind the camera, the man who would become her husband and the love of her life. Had she known she would marry this man, she probably would have considered a more serious expression but, maybe on second-thought, the crossed-eyes and flalling limbs was the most apropriate pose after all.

The fourth picture is a picture of the old woman and her husband a short time later, him sitting on her desk and her on his lap with arms outstretched. At that time, she considered photo four very conflicting indeed. There she was: young, married and happy, living and working in New York City in a journalism firm (and the only woman on the staff of journalists, thank you). Reflecting on the photo shortly after it was taken, she still felt the pull of her rebellious spirit even through her stable, married life and couldn’t help but question her happiness. After all, how had she found such happiness being married and working? It took her many pearls of wisdom to come up with the idea that would shape her entire life, almost like a personnal moto if you believe in such things. Looking at this photo she deduced that happiness wasn’t achieved by moulding your surroundings to create the feelings you want, but rather moulding your attitude and emotions to find joy in whatever you do. In that way, happiness would never fade with the passing of events but would grow exponentially. To this day, fifty-five years later, the old woman still found herself reflecting on these very words whenever she saw the photo and couldn’t help but feel proud yet again that she had managed to live her eighty-five years by abiding to this personnal philosophy.

She grabed the fifth photograph, slowly relinquishing the feelings of the fourth for the emotions of the fifth. This next photo was much like the first: a mother with her two children, the exception being that this time the old woman was the mother. She stood on her hands and knees, her children Rachel and Max jumping around her in some sort of fantastical game. Her children were much older now and probably didn’t even remember the photo or the game or the fleeting sweetness of their youth, but it didn’t matter. The old woman had these memories of her children and knowing that they now felt the same love for their children was what counted the most.

Quickly running out of photos, she grabbed the sixth out of the old box. There she was with the love of her life and her two children, a much older woman, watching as her grandchildren ran around their legs. Smiling and happy, the children in this photo looked much like the children in all of the others. They were at the beach, the old woman’s entire family, smiling and loving and embracing the entire moment. The happiness in the photo was too much for the piece of film, let alone the old woman. She laughed a sad laugh, knowing that only seconds after the photo was taken the children would run into the water with the most hysterically ridiculous fear of waves and jump right back out again when they realized that there were, in fact, large waves. The woman looked at this photo the longest, for she would be happy to end her photo collection here and let this beach scene be the culmintation of her life. But it wasn’t. There was a seventh photo.

She slowly placed back the happy memories of photo sixth and in exchange took out the final photo: photo seven. Again, it was a photo of her children and grandchildren all sitting behind her as she stood in the foreground with her husband. She stood there as he received his last rites, as he was lowered into the ground, and he in turn waited while she said her final goodbyes. The death of her husband was the only photo she wasn’t smiling in and that was what made it so striking to look at. An old woman whose photos defined her life as one of happiness and accomplishment fell in tears in the last photo, the conclusion to her collection. The old woman sat in her rocking chair and began to cry to the image of her last photograph, her crying in tune with the rain. All of these photos together didn’t just tell a story; they recounted a life, inspired memories, and reminded an old woman what it meant to live. To the average person, the life was not big in terms of accomplishments but in the eyes of the woman and the people who loved her, her life was as big and full as the world itself. After all, these photos represented everything that a full life needs: remembrance, happiness, perserverance, pride, adventure, love, adoration, and loss. The old woman looked her age of eighty five years, yet as she sat in her nursing home with the rain outside she couldn’t feel more alive. Behind her face and behind her collected years was the personality and emotion of every woman in the every picture. All that was left was these seven pictures in the old wooden box. They may not have been a lot but it was all the old woman needed to remind herself that yes, she was and still is very much alive and even though her children were grown and she had faced the sadness of loss, her life was defined by the happiness she experienced and the photos that captured it all.





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