One of the things my sister left behind for me was a big bag of black and white photos. It was full of images of our childhood, moments in time frozen forever. Growing up on a farm in the 1950s was a very hard life. During the planting season through harvest, life was full of long hours. Sunup to sundown was spent cropping tobacco and picking cotton. It was brutal on us as children, but it was how we lived. We took it in stride and made the best of it.
The tobacco was green and sticky with sap that was impossible to get off your hands. We had to string the loose tobacco onto a tobacco stick. This was done under a barn in the heat and was non-stop work. Picking cotton in the hot blistering sun was exhausting and your hands would bleed and the sack that you put the cotton in, a burlap sack, grew heavier with each step. Yet no one complained and many a gospel song was to be heard.
Here in these black and white photos was a chronicle of my early life. There is something about those photos that made my life look hard and lifeless. They seemed not to have soft edges. You could almost feel the burdens that we carried just to make a simple living and put food on the table.
To me, they don’t show the life we had in color. They don’t show the brilliant sunsets, clear blue skies and the vibrant greens of the fields when the crops were at their peak. Life was full of colors, smells, and sounds. Imagine pancakes on the griddle, watermelons, and cantaloupes glistening with the morning dew waiting to be picked.
The photos don’t capture the cool water of the creek where we would take a late evening swim, or the pastels of Sunday clothes after church at a cover-dish lunch. In the fall the trees turned bright scarlet and yellow, with the orange of pumpkins stacked high for the harvest dance.
The images of my life are all black and white, yet my memories are all full of color like a rainbow after a summer rain shower, and the azaleas my mother planted when we first moved to the farm. Their beauty and color were breathtaking but not so much in these old photos.
In life, much of what we do is not as black and white as it seems. Growing up I often heard the old saying that life is as simple as black or white. Life is not black and white. It is a palette of vibrant colors like a Van Gogh painting. It is laughter, joy, and song. It is full of texture, smells, and many feelings. It is full of love, kindness, giving, and compassion all these colors, the spectrum of life.
Even the dark days and pain that sometimes visits us look better in color. I have spent the last 19 years of my life creating a garden. It was planned so that in each season something blooms. It always has color and beauty. Our memories should not be remembered in black and white but as a garden where something is always in bloom. Live your life in color.
Awaken the possibilities … then unleash them. After 55 years of successful retail management, I have returned to my passion of writing. I write Poetry, Storytelling, and Short Stories. As a child, I grew up on front porch storytelling. I would sit and listen to my Dad and his brothers tell these great stories that were captivating, and I always wanted to hear more. I wanted to experience the things they talked about. I started writing at a young age and reading everything I could get my hands on. At twelve years old I started a storytelling group and several of my friends became writers or poets. At 16 I hopped box cars and worked the tobacco fields, orange groves, picked cotton, and spent many nights around a campfire listing to life stories. Someone once asked me why I wrote. It consumes an amazing amount of time and I assure you it is not going to make me rich. I write so that my children can touch and feel my words telling of the ones that came before us and the stories they told me.