Over the last few weeks I have been sorting through my parents’ photos and putting them into a visual diary. This requires some research: who are they, where was it taken, when was it taken, and so on. I have pestered relatives for information to try to uncover some of the mysteries. Some photos, thankfully have some details scrawled on the back. The problem is that most of the people in the old photos have passed on a long time ago. Google search and maps have been handy companions but there is only so much they can tell you.
The process however, especially with the old photos is an emotional one – my dad as a 17 year old rugged up in a heavy coat. What were you thinking dad at the time this photo was taken? Where did you expect your life to lead? There are the photos of his time as an indentured worker in Germany. I see camaraderie and youth but not too many smiles. The Christmas Tree in 1943 is particularly evocative. And then there is the eerie doubly exposed photo of a young woman superimposed on what seems like a park. I have this faint memory that this was a girlfriend before my mother came on the scene. Why was this photo kept? I know my mother wanted it to be thrown out.
There are photos of Rotterdam before it was bombed by the Germans and then the Allies with the Kestein bicycle factory (thank you Google) with a loaded wagon pulled by draught horses. Another time and place. A world away from 2020. There are bicycling holidays after the war. What were your hopes then, dad, when so much had happened and when a blanket of pain and suffering had settled over Europe.
The sorting is a slow process as you can’t help but look at the photos and ponder as you try to sift behind the black, white and grey images and the softly fading faces.