Before my husband and I left Illinois a year ago, we gave away carloads of possessions to local charities. If you’ve moved recently, you know what I mean. Ancillary furniture, dishes, clothes and knickknacks. We resolved there was no point in carrying all of these extra items seventeen hundred miles west only to deposit them in a dusty, $200-per-month storage closet. Especially when they might be of use to other families in other homes in the same metropolitan area.
But there was something of more personal, intrinsic value I couldn’t part with—my voluminous supply of family photos, complete with glimpses back in time to less complicated places and meaningful moments in Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Texas. All of them came with us to Arizona.
Even after raiding my photo repository for three memoirs I’ve written, some images have slipped under my radar. They are stored loosely in shoeboxes or glued to yellowing scrapbooks my parents left behind. Others I’ve accumulated in albums from my own six decades. Now all of them are stacked in our master bedroom closet or in my father’s World War II army trunk near the foot of our bed.
My intent—over time—is to scan and digitize the bulk of them. But if I do that, I won’t have the experience I had today. Reaching up to the top shelf of my closet, leafing through a stack of old photos, and discovering an image I forgot I had: this remarkably clear (though somewhat tattered) snapshot of my grandparents’ farmhouse in Huntersville, North Carolina.
As luck would have it, this circa-1940s photo was nowhere to be found three years ago when I was writing From Fertile Ground. I scoured every corner of my Illinois home to find the most iconic black-and-white images of the farm my granddad bought from a man named J.R. McCurdy in 1945.
But this old gem slipped through the cracks only to resurface today and shed new light on a blazing afternoon in the Sonoran Desert. It was a happy reminder of the tired but magical refuge I knew twenty years later in the 1960s, where my sister and I chased peacocks in July for a chance to bring home a colorful tail feather or two and a new batch of summer memories.