Mrs. Aurelia M. Lampo

08:59 December 04, 2019
By: Debbie Lindsey

Pho-to-graph (noun)
A picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused onto film or other light sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment or stored digitally.

My definition: A person or a moment in a life that should be honored and remembered.

In our home, just as in the shop we once had, photographs are honored. I credit my husband with much of this, as he is very sensitive to the images of lives often forgotten. I, too, am no stranger to sentimentality. I anthropomorphize and confer serious symbolic importance to inanimate objects that have memories attached or were gifted to me. To just discard them in order to reduce clutter seems disrespectful to the persons who gave them or left them behind for me to discover.

Husband and I once rented an apartment from a lovely landlady who lived in the same building. When her family deemed it time for her to be placed in a nursing home, they put what they considered trash in a heavy-duty garbage bag and kicked her "life" to the curb. Of course, we went through it and rescued things that were dear to her: a jar of holy water, her daughter's report cards, photographs, and other seemingly unimportant mementos of her life. Husband placed them on the shelves of his altar of souvenirs from his own life and those he found that needed a "home."

Slowly, I came to extend my sentimental attachments beyond things personal to me and my family to include items that customers gave me, that strangers lost-objects, photos, letters, et cetera-an assortment of objects pertaining to others were now a part of my life. For some, scrapbooks and dairies hold personal experiences, but we both enjoy creating alters to showcase our mementos, treasures.

Here in New Orleans, this is not uncommon. Bookcases, tabletops, and fireplace mantels often showcase one's favorite good luck Saints' talisman (talkin' football, not a deity), photographs of family and friends, seashells collected, obituary clippings, an old toy still cherished, Fido's dog collar (your first true love), and the ashes of that cat that made you finally become a "cat person." A shrine can consist of anything that has meaning to you, and often our imaginations can give life to
life's discards.

Mrs. Aurelia M. Lampo was retired to a thrift store-not her, but her personalized desktop name plate. Did she merely retire from some mundane job, or was this personalized item part of her life that she was proud of? Did it have meaning for her? Did her employees or employers give her a blow-out of a retirement party? Why was it relegated to the Goodwill drop-off? One day I hope to find her and let her know that she has "worked" for us for years, and that she has done a fabulous job. We even gave her a make-over-regardless of what she looks (or looked) like, she is represented by a lovely image captured in a black and white photograph, circa 1930s, found at a thrift store, with perfectly coiffed hair and a strand of pearls at the nape of her neck. She is beautiful and yet demure. Mrs. Lampo will always sit on our shelf with her professionalism and name plaque in place. We even gave her an email address.

Back when Boyfriend, now Husband, and I began to live together, I took on a family of people he adopted by way of their photographed faces and lives. He simply couldn't bear to pass by old framed images of people whose families later discarded them. Recently, we were forced into the unacceptable position of downsizing and had to choose which of our mementos, art, papers, letters, photographs, and books we could keep. There was little John and his kid sister in the world's largest and bulkiest photo-scrap book (about 15 pounds, 3x3 feet, and a wooden cover no less). They had been retrieved from a thrift store years ago by Husband and traveled from California to here via many apartments-now was simply not the time to relinquish them.

"Minimalism" has become a word that we both spit with disdain out of our mouths. In the past two and half years, we have closed a shop, moved that shop, closed that shop, and moved from a spacious rental home to a much smaller home. Literally tons (seriously, a ton equals 2,000 pounds, and we lifted and toted tons) of inventory and personal possessions were packed and unpacked, and to our horror, much was forced into the "we have no room for this" category. Now we were faced with being those heartless folks that kick to the curb someone's life as represented by photographs, love letters, family heirlooms, etc. And I promise you, there is much sentimental attachment to
the et cetera.

So having been forced into a degree of minimalism, forced to see its necessity, I still find it distasteful. That someone would choose to live in a barren environment that resembles a realtor's staged open house is foreign to us. Collectibles and treasures can have a place amid tidiness and organization, but
here I digress.

Somehow, my parents stay alive to me when I see them smile back at me from their framed images. And while it pains me to see how old I have become, photos from earlier years give braggin' rights to my looks that once garnered a whistle and not a polite, "Yes, ma'am." Going through boxes of photographs had me reliving events and remembering old friends, family, strangers, and neighbors I had nearly forgot. These are faces that influenced, irritated, and invigorated my life. Even the ones I never knew but came to know-the Mrs. Aurelia M. Lampos that watch over us, always smiling-forever allowed a place in the world they may have left too soon.

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