Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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It's clear that my parents haven't been doing much entertaining since we were last at their house three years ago. There's a lot of clutter, of course, it being a Bertsch household. But that's nothing new.

The sense of there not having been many visitors comes more from the way that the clutter hasn't moved in the intervening time. My parents seem content to go about their daily lives doing the few things they like or need to do, leaving the rest of the house to sit. I suppose that's a very common syndrome among empty-nesters who still reside in the house they had children in.

I must say, though, that the archivist in me is infinitely happier with a house in which little has moved than a house in which almost everything has been. It was pretty easy for me to find the special and not-so-special things I had an urge to examine. Despite my parents' disturbing pronouncements during their last visit to Tucson, to the effect that my mother had rearranged everything in her office, which used to be my room, the closet was untouched.

Not only that, the adjoining room, formerly my sister's, in which Kim and Skylar slept had my own dresser, with the little drawers full of odds-and-ends also untouched and a box of various Important Things which my mother had apparently assembled years before during one of her manic organizational phases. The wealth of material outweighed the capacity of our luggage.

I did, however, manage to bring back a variety of interesting items, ranging from pre-school "report cards" to high-school memorabilia, not to mention a number of my most treasured negatives and slides. Look for the release of this new archival material over the coming months.

I'm sure you can't wait.

I describe the mission of this journal to be the integration of past and present. Where most blogs traffic in the here-and-now, I try to forge connection to other periods in my life, whether through the reproduction of documents or the recollection of noteworthy experiences.

This short trip we just took was like this journal, only more so.

Nights were spent sitting at the dining room table talking, inevitably, about the past, examining my father's collection of photos and documents from his family, and looking at slides. I don't think my parents had brought the projector out in years, so the slide-viewing was particularly restorative. We looked at slides from my year in Europe and the family trip to England and Belgium at its conclusion that had never been projected or, in some cases, even looked at. The evening we were out for dinner with my sister Miriam, my parents looked at their own slides in our absence. And one night my father showed us some of his father's still-beautiful Kodachrome slides from the World War II years.

To take a quick look at 14012 Manchester Road, you'd be hard pressed to imagine someone less interested in "image" than my parents.

But we're actually an image-obsessed household.

The greatest trauma I remember from our days in Pennsylvania was when the envelope containing my mother's prize early 60s slides of Cape Cod accidentally ended up in the burn pile. We didn't have garbage service. My father burned the majority of our garbage, a practice I remember fondly, however strange it may seem today. And one day the wrong envelope went up in flames. My mother was so distraught over the loss. It overwhelmed her Protestant reserve more than the loss of human loved ones.

Though my parents are very frugal, they will freely spend money on cameras and film that they would never spend for clothes and the like.

My mother's parents and sister were painters. My father's father ran a camera store in Flushing.

At our wedding, when we came to the part where Kim and I had planned to give a flower to our respective mothers, I couldn't find mine because she was standing at a tripod instead of sitting in her seat.

I'm no better. For several weeks, Kim and I swore that the infant Skylar thought her father was a camera.

It could be worse, though: at least a camera's objective.

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