When I was in elementary school in the late 80s and early 90s, I knew a girl named “Anna” who died of cancer when we were in 3rd grade. I wouldn’t say we were ever exactly friends—we never went over to each other’s houses or anything—but we were good acquaintances. We were in the same class in 1st and 2nd grade, and we played on the same soccer team for a year. During this time, my mom was a stay-at-home mom and frequently volunteered at the school as a classroom helper and field trip chaperone. She always took lots and lots of pictures of everything, but she never did anything with them. She would develop them and put them in shoeboxes to “sort through later.” Long story short, she has about a dozen shoeboxes of photographs in her basement. I started staying with her during the initial shelter-in-place order in April 2020, and I’m still here while I’m working remotely. We both started working on various projects around the house, and I decided to finally tackle those boxes of photos and get them organized and put into albums.
While going through these pictures, I have found a lot with Anna in them, most from before she got sick. The majority of these are of things that her parents wouldn’t have pictures of—Anna in class or playing with other kids at recess, or posing with a group of kids on a field trip. My first thought was that I should reach out to Anna’s parents and pass them on. But how do I do this? Do I just send them the pictures out of the blue? Show up on their doorstep? Write a letter telling them about the pictures and asking if they want to see them? A big part of me thinks they will want these photos, and it wouldn’t be right for me to keep them from them, but then again I don’t know if it would just be opening old wounds to suddenly send them pictures of their child who’s been dead for almost 30 years. What should I do, and what should I say?
— Blast from the Past