Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Slide Show on Plaza Place

I cried when I heard the news.

My beloved grandparents were moving to Atlantic City.

Sure, it was only a 90 minute drive from our home in the northeast section of Philadelphia, but to a 10-year old girl, Atlantic City might as well have been on the opposite coast.

"We'll never get to see you!" I wailed, not realizing how very, very wrong I would be.

My grandparents' cozy, one-bedroom apartment on the 12th floor of a beach-front high rise became host to my family more often than I could ever have imagined.  The building, called Plaza Place, was so named not because it boasted rich and famous tenants, but because it was built on a street of the same name.

We certainly visited during the colder months, but it was those summer days...those warm sweet summer days, that captured our fancy.

My older sister Bev and I spent our adolescent Plaza Place days flirting with the cute teenage lifeguards at the pool or helping our little brother Steven build sandcastles on the beach. Evenings in 1970's pre-casino Atlantic City brought everyone to the boardwalk, the place for parents to see and be seen while their kids played skeeball at dozens of arcades or rode the coaster at the now defunct Million Dollar Pier.

But the best part of a trip to my grandparents' apartment?

The slide show!

After one of my grandmother's delicious dinners, the family would relax for a bit before heading to the boardwalk. That's when Bev and I begged my grandfather to bring out the slide projector.

He pretended to object at first, but Bev and I knew we would always get our way. He'd set up the screen, pull out the projector, place the slide deck on top, all the while hiding the twinkle in his eyes.

Instead of developing his film into the more traditional photo album-ready prints, my grandfather chose to have his pictures made into thousands of slides, and ninety percent of them contained what I considered to be incredibly boring images of vacation destinations from exotic locales across the globe.

However, my grandfather took delight in "secretly" placing family photos at the end of each vacation slide deck. That meant we were forced to politely sit through what felt like 3,794 images of Russia or Spain or Portugal or Egypt. We waited in anticipation, listening to that distinctive "kachunk" sound the projector made when my grandfather pressed the button to advance to the next slide. We never knew which images would appear on the screen. Pictures of Bev and me holding our infant baby brother, pictures of us frolicking in the ocean, pictures of birthday parties, dance recitals, holiday dinners...he had them all. Precious memories placed strategically at the end of each deck.

Today those memories are stacked unceremoniously amid dozens and dozens of boxes of slides bathed in decades of dust and grime inside my parents' garage.

Lost memories hidden in slides that are impossible to see without a projector and screen.

Lost memories that someday, someday, I'll find a way to transfer to prints.

Not surprisingly, there are very few photos of my grandfather hidden amongst those slides, for he took pride in his skills behind the camera, not in front. When a devastating stroke took its toll, my grandfather passed his treasured Nikon to me.

As a young adult, I used my grandfather's gift to capture autumn's spendor, spectacular sunsets, and scenic gardens in spring-time bloom. But I soon realized what I longed to capture belonged not to nature, but to my heart.  I captured photos of the college friends who joined with me on the journey through our 20s, where fun began when the work day ended as night clubs held promise for finding our future Mr. Right.

I captured photos of an adorable guy named Bob whose title soon changed from boyfriend to husband.  I captured photos of a newborn baby girl named Melissa....a toddler at play...a pre-teen frolicking with friends in the ocean...birthday parties, dance recitals, holiday dinners....I had them all.

Today, instead of viewing treasured family photos on a screen in my grandparents' Plaza Place living room, I can simply scroll through life's moments conveniently stored on my phone. Yes, the technology has changed, but the time-honored tradition of reliving my memories has not.

In the coming months, I'll add photos of a high-school graduation to those memories....and before long, bittersweeet images of college move-in day.

Perhaps, just perhaps, when my "baby" is tucked away in a distant dorm, that's when I'll finally find the time to tackle the ardous task of transferring those slides to prints.

And while my daughter embraces her exciting future, I will embrace my distant past.... where summer nights found my family gathered in a cozy living room to watch the slide show on Plaza Place.

Me (in the orange coat) with my sister Bev and our beloved grandmother Ann.
One of thousands of pictures stored in my grandfather's old slides.
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  1. Lisa I always loved when my parents would do slide shows of us!! You are so right, the memories are so wonderful to visit. And I know you will enjoy your pictures when Melissa is away, but I also know you will make so many wonderful new memories!! xo

    1. It will certainly be a change Kathy....but you're right, more memories to be made!