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March of the family photos

It was time to bring some order to our jumbled story.

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I finally got around to organizing 10 years of photographs. They had been crammed into our antique secretary like acorns in a squirrel's mouth. Then I moved them to a bunch of storage boxes in a dank, dark basement closet because I was so tired of looking at them – to say nothing of how unattractive they looked: thick, little packages shoved in glass-enclosed shelves that are supposed to house lovely looking things, not photo packets from the drugstore.

I always thought I would put them in albums. I was pretty good about it after the birth of my first daughter, Erin. I kept up with the empty albums that were lying around to display our life. In fact, I had a special one just for Erin: her first year of life all on show in a soft and pretty pink book from Hallmark. I had similar intentions for our son, Brett, born nearly two years later: another cutesy photo album, but more masculine in color with the obligatory teddy bear on the front. Somewhere between 3 and 6 months of age, his album ended. Oh, there were plenty of blank pages to fill, but I never got around to it. I'd intended to fill out a bunch of family albums from the hundreds of glossy prints showing our evolution from younger-but-tired parents of small children to older-but-tired parents of rapidly maturing children. But I kept putting it off.

A few months ago, Erin, now 14, must have been bored because she purposely went looking for these half-assembled albums. I supposed she hadn't looked at them in a long time. It wasn't long before I heard her laughing and chortling from another room.

"Oh my God, Brett was so cute," Erin said. "Brett, c'mere!"

I didn't know she was so interested in pictures of her family. Her life seemed to revolve around instant messaging, vigilant maintenance of her iTunes account, and endless late-night journal writing. Sometimes it felt as though the rest of us – mother, father, and brother – were just extras in the movie of her life. But here she was, drinking in these pictures over and over, as though she'd discovered gold.

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