Recapturing Our Lost Riches

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As a young child, I would sneak out to the garage when my adoptive parents weren’t home and find the “hidden pictures.” It was as if there were a sign on the door stating, “PRIVATE – KEEP OUT,” but the temptation was just too great. I remember staring in awe at each black and white photo tucked away in the unlabeled box like a wide-eyed kid overwhelmed by a bigger-than-life chocolate sundae.

“Oh, look,” I would whisper as I held it close for that moment … one more picture of memories that weren’t mine to keep.

In the early ‘60s, my adoptive parents’ marriage ended. After their divorce, my adoptive mother remarried a medical doctor. I did not understand why family photos from my first six years of life had to be taken away from me. An unspoken vow of silence by my adoptive mother created negative feelings that images of the past were somehow supposed to be shameful secrets.

I never knew what happened to my displaced childhood memories. Someone must have discovered that I was trespassing into that box. The “forbidden pictures” were then placed completely out of my reach, like a cookie jar sitting on top of a high shelf.

There have been times in my life when I needed to recapture those lost pictures. I’ve longed to know how much my daughters resembled me as a child from that first glimpse of a brand-new life to our five-year-old toothless grins. As I recall, I didn’t analyze the pictures to find someone to blame for my adoptive parents’ failed marriage, but rather to find good memories that a child could hold onto.

Sometimes the deepest desires of our hearts are answered years later in unexpected, triumphant ways.

“Don’t forget to ask my brother if he found any more photos,” I yelled out to my husband as he drove off on a business trip that would include a short visit to my relative’s home. My oldest brother had the task of sorting through our late parents’ possessions and finding new homes for their belongings. What I hoped to reclaim were the lost keepsakes … the valuable memories that I believed were rightfully mine.

After returning home from his trip, my husband handed me “little snippets of my childhood” that my brother thought I would cherish. One of the estate items that he had set aside for me was my stepfather’s old fishing pole. Teary-eyed, I held on tightly to the sentimental memories while reminiscing about those special times we had shared together. While I was lost in a little girl’s dreams, my husband then placed in my lap a small cardboard box. Printed neatly on the top in my sister-in-law’s handwriting were the words, “For JoAnne.” All that this gift seemed to be missing was a bow and wrapping paper. I slowly opened the box, wondering what long-ago treasures might be inside.

“Oh my!” I squealed as if I had been playing pirates with my brothers and we had just discovered part of our lost riches. I felt like I was sifting through sand as I cupped a box full of our family’s photos in my hands. With a giggle, I would take each small slide and look up toward the light to see if I could recognize the images. I do recall having seen some of the snapshots. But many of these slides, which I had never known existed until this moment, brought back fond memories that were saved with a click of the camera.

I was completely overwhelmed by this kaleidoscope of pictures that abruptly started from the age of seven, when my adoptive mother married my stepfather, and then sporadically up until I was pregnant with my first child. My daughters will take me more seriously the next time I tell them that I was in water ballet. I can’t stop laughing when I see myself as a young girl sitting on the side of a pool all decked out in my swimming cap decorated with artificial flowers, or when I am practicing casting, out over the side of the hill with my new Zebco fishing pole.

It’s the little things in life that are often taken for granted that have always meant so much to me. I would trade all the money in this world to get back the “hidden” photos from the first six years of my life that I presume were discarded. I want to hold on to the good memories with the pure and innocent heart of a child. I need to remember the joy, despite the losses.

Author: JoAnne

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44 Comments

  1. It’s unfortunate that sometimes those mementos do slip away. I guess the only thing we can do then is to tuck them away in our hearts. And I do love the photos you do have! wonderful heartfelt post as usual….Love,val

  2. JoAnne, I’m so glad you got some of your childhood pictures back to remind you of some of those better memories. Love the ones you shared. Blessings to you!

  3. What a special gift for you to receive those photos from your childhood, JoAnne! It’s good to hold onto and remember the joys in life. Thank you for sharing your memories and photos. Blessings to you!

  4. What great pictures, thanks for shring them.

    :~)

  5. JoAnne, this is a wonderful story. Your last line says it all–the importance of remembering the joy, despite the losses. You are a strong woman and what’s more–you have God in your life, helping you each step of the way.

    Keep writing. Your stories are a blessing.

  6. Val, And sometimes those special memories you have tucked away in your heart unexpectedly come back. I love you my friend.

  7. Lynn, Some people might be surprised, but nobody could attach a price tag these pictures. It’s a part of my happy memories as a child that no one can take away from me.

  8. Oh, thanks for stopping by Connie. I’ve missed staying better in touch with you. I am glad you got to see my childhood pictures that mean the world to me.

  9. Hey Kali, where have you been hiding out? I always love it when you read my posts and leave me your caring comments. A wonderful part of my little writing fan club :).

  10. Thank you so much Bonnie for the compliments about my story and enjoying the “joyful” pictures with me. Everyday I am learning more about myself…through all the trials, God is still right beside me as I continue to become a stronger woman.

  11. It is amazing to look at old photographs a see a person we once were and still are. Thanks … 🙂

  12. How wonderful those missing pieces of joy were returned to you.

  13. Thanks for sharing another beautiful story. What a treasure to receive the fishing pole (you will have to come try it out on the Lewis River)! I got a smile on my face just imagining you and the girls going through the photos. It truly is the simple pleasures that bring the most happiness!
    Keep up the great work! God Bless!

  14. Russell, yes, truly amazing because each picture is still a part of who I am today from my love for children to being a girl that immensely enjoys fishing :). Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Maureen, I like it, I could have titled my post, “Missing Pieces of Joy.” Thanks for your kindness :)!

  16. Barb, Thank you for your sweet compliments; a fishing buddy who knows my heart!My dad’s pole is so antique; I don’t know if I could catch a fish with it. The pole is hanging up above the fishing basket your hubby so graciously gave me. I remember those things :).

  17. Most of my early history is lost in the shadows of a broken home, thankfully I am not repeating that mistake with my family. We have many memory book filled with all kinds of wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Peace,
    Jay

  18. Jay, I wish there was a way to spread the word to all parents’ of broken homes how important and special the pictures are in the lives of their children.

  19. We’ve been sorting through photos of our now 30-year-old to save for his now 8-week old. It’s amazing what those old photos can do. Thanks for sharing this.

  20. What a wonderful gift you received, JoAnne. I’m so happy you now have at least some of the cherished pictures you desired. Thanks for sharing with us.

  21. I am glad you were able to get some of those photos back. I know how much that can mean. I have no photos of myself to show my children and very few of them as babies. Thank God for the memories I can share with them even without photos. Blessings to you and yours.

  22. Old pictures are so priceless. I’m so glad you got them 🙂

  23. This story is just like you; a sweet ballet danced before us, just as you did your water ballet! So cool and fun. Glad that you got these memories back, to cherish forever. God is good all the time!

  24. I completely get this. I, too, have memories that have been taken away. But you’re right about focusing on the joy. So, so right.

  25. “Sometimes the deepest desires of our hearts are answered years later in unexpected, triumphant ways.”
    Yes, I have seen that. Those years are so long, but the great joy that comes from what God does (and has been doing all along).

  26. You can say that again Gynn :), “It’s amazing what those old photos can do!”

    Bridget, Wonderful gifts can truly come in small packages with no wrapping paper or a bow.

    Hi Tricia, you want to join me a crusade to show parents’ to from our perspectives how important and special childhood pictures are? Thanks for stopping by :).

  27. So good to see that you were blessed beyond belief in such a short moment. It is wonderful [to say the least], when our Father’s hand comes forward with a gift we had hoped for, but not necessarily anticipated. Yea, you!!

    BTW, I anticipate driving through your area on July 23rd. If we could meet face-to-face instead of keyboard-to-keyboard, I’d like that. Just let me know… you have my e-address.

    Blessings..

  28. What a precious post, you have a gift for sharing.

    In spite of the loss of moments captured on film; what a blessing that you recaptured the memories stored in your heart. Funny how sometimes the best presents DO come in small packages. One box, one heart – all love.

  29. Hi Theresa, Do you ever notice that it’s those things in life that don’t cost any money that are the most valuable?

    Kelly, What a nice compliment that my post left you with smile!

    Audra, It’s amazing how God always manages somehow to help me find the sweetness, even through the difficult parts of my journey. I feel blessed to able to put my heart into words. I am so glad we got connected on FB.

  30. Hi Lainie, Thanks for stopping by; nice meeting you. I am sorry that your memories were taken away from you too. Hope one of these days your life will blessed joyfully like mine in an unexpected, triumphant way :).

    Monica, The part that is hard sometimes is to remember that God has been there all along.

  31. What a touching story, Joanne. Thank you for sharing it with us. I liked the way you described the joy of being given those treasured pictures, I felt like I was watching a gleeful little girl opening a birthday present from the way you described it!

  32. Joanne, Counting my blessings as each photo brings back such fond memories :). Yes, I would love to meet you in person. Please remind me when the day gets closer.

  33. So glad to connect with you on FB too! Happy Mother’s Day!

  34. Lin, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I loved being able to share to pictures from my childhood. It was like okay, this a big deal because I don’t have very many and I want everyone to know how special they are to me. I am glad you and I met. I appreciate your caring self :)!

    Mimi, I am glad you stopped by. I love you and your twins. Thanks for sharing your boys with me. Dayton’s Mother’s Day hands poster means a lot to me.

  35. There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. ~Ansel Adams

    That box of pictures are a gift from your past. I am so happy for you!

  36. I got chills for you! What a special gift. I know all my dedication and hard work making photo albums will pay off for future generations to come. This story proves it!

  37. Don, I have been deep in thought on your quote…very sentimental memories. Interesting that all the pictures represent such a big part of Miss Suzy Homemaker I am today :).

  38. A great story for a scrap book magazine. Roz, thanks for your friendship being a wonderful part of my journey.

  39. Thanks for sharing your heart. Its so special to have those memories

  40. Michelle, it just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t stop by and leave such a sweet comment. Thank you :)!

  41. It is always heartwarming when good things happen to great people. Though you do not have all of your childhood photos, how wonderful that at least some of them made their way back to you. To some people photos are simply images on paper. But to others (like you and I) they are moments frozen in time – glimpses into our past that are to be appreciated and treasured.

  42. JoAnne, what a well-told story! You’re so right about how important those old photos are — it’s almost like they validate our memories. Sometimes we worry our memory is slightly off, or missing a detail or two, but seeing an actual photo leaves us little to argue with! I always feel so bad for people who lose all their photos in fires (now with electronic photos, that doesn’t happen so much, thankfully). I’m so happy you found at least some of yours! Great story.

  43. Wonderful JoAnne!! Your stories always pull at your heart strings. It is always enjoy to read them!! Thanks for sharing
    Mary

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