Recently I was listening to the Pink song “Family Portrait”.
While I was thinking about the words of the song, I remembered I have my own hidden family portrait.
Let me explain.
When I was about 18 my parents arranged for a professional photographer to take a picture of our family. The photo captures Mum, Dad and my brother and I smiling into the camera.
It is quite a large photo in a fancy wooden frame. The sort of photograph you might hang over a fireplace if indeed you had one. It’s not something you can display on a shelf.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and a lot has changed (as tends to happen over such a long period of time).
For starters my parents divorced in 1993. I was 27 at the time. Considering my age, you might assume my parents divorce didn’t have much of an effect on my life. You would be wrong.
The divorce caused a rift in my family that is only now starting to heal.
On top of that my Dad sadly passed away in 2001. Losing my Dad was the worst moment of my life. At the time, there were a lot of heartbreaking and confusing emotions to deal with.
It’s not just about my parents either. When the photo was taken I was also engaged to be married (yes I was incredibly young and you can read more about that in a post I wrote for SheNOW).
You might wonder why I used the word hidden earlier.
The truth is I can’t bring myself to hang the family portrait on the wall. Come to think of it, once it left the family home, it’s never seen the light of day.
Part of me feels by hanging it on the wall, I would be living in the past. Another part feels it would be a bit of a lie having happy smiling faces looking down at me (when the reality was and still is very different).
While a large part of me wants to capture the family bond that existed at the time the photo was taken, wanting to preserve the perception of those bonds isn’t enough for me to hang it on the wall.
Yet I protect that family portrait like my life depends on it. I carefully encase it in protective wrapping and move it around the garage/house to where I think it will be safe. While I can’t bring myself to hang it on the wall, I can’t bear to think of the photo being damaged.
Of course that moment in time can never be replaced. The memories of my family together can never be replaced. It holds a special place in my heart (because there are a lot of good memories as well), yet the photo remains hidden in the garage.
I can’t help but wonder if other people struggle with mixed emotions over family portraits or old photographs?
For example, do you keep old photographs of your ex-partners or do you tear them up and throw them in the bin?
Personally I keep all of my old photographs ex-boyfriends and all. I don’t rip photos in half or throw out photos when I am not in the picture. Those relationships were a part of my life, albeit at times a very painful one. My relationships made me who I am today and have helped lead me to a happier place.
In saying that I don’t wallow in the past and look through photos of my ex-boyfriends every weekend either. I would definitely consider that unhealthy.
If a new partner asked me to get rid of photos of old boyfriends the answer would be no. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone that controlling or insecure in the first place.
As I type this, I realize you might have the opposite problem. Perhaps your home is filled with old photographs and family portraits that you can’t bear to take down?
Are you divorced yet still looking at a photo of your ex every day? Could now be the time to take it down and put that particular piece of the past away?
Maybe it’s time to ask yourself what is the real emotional cost of having old photos up around the house? Maybe it’s time to consider whether they are keeping you trapped in the past?
As far as my family portrait in the garage goes, I will remember it fondly and keep it protected for now.
Do you have an old family portrait or photograph that stirs up your emotions?
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