Over the years, we’ve developed an elaborate, precise, meticulous method for organizing our old photographs: we toss them loose into mismatched cartons, throw the cartons in the back of the closet, never open the closet and completely forget that’s where they are.

We developed our system, of course, in the days before digital photography, when you brought a roll of film to the drugstore, put it in an envelope and waited a week or so until you could see the blurry shots of Uncle Charlie’s hand and how we had cut off the heads of all the pre-school students graduating with our daughter.

It has taken us much trial-and-error experimenting since then to develop our exacting system.

Early on, we just left all the photos strewn on the dining table, so we could determine how the acid in pictures reacts to left-over ketchup and soy sauce stuck to the place mat.

Then we’d move the pile of pictures to a dresser in the bedroom, where we could sprinkle them so they’d get caught in the underwear, before transitioning to the desk, where they’d disappear among the utility bills.

Ultimately, we discovered that the carton method, with photos tossed in there randomly, was a far more efficient way to mix them up all together and achieve the goal of absolutely preventing us from determining if these were the photos from the family trip to Mexico in ’91 or cousin Lynne’s wedding in ’97.

In either case, we were never exactly sure who those people in the photos were. I like to think it was a critical organizing decision we made to completely leave off any specific identification on the photos so that in years to come we could test our failing memories to figure out who, in fact, were these people we were kissing.

(My parents and my wife’s parents had done this before us, leaving us photos that, in fact, may have been theirs. But since there’s no identification, no date, no place, they also could have been pictures they found in a Holiday Inn in Passaic, New Jersey, of a last-century Ukrainian family on their first visit to the U.S. performing a traditional folkloric dance. We have no idea.)

The good news is that things have changed considerably since those days. Now, with our digital camera, we don’t have to go to the drugstore.

We can now toss the cameras themselves, along with their instruction manuals, chargers, cables, disks and Uncle Charlie’s blurry hand, directly into mismatched cartons and throw them all into the back of the closet, never to be seen again.

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