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Pondering small, simple things that matter.

Religious systems purport to convey a fullness of meaning, a womb-to-tomb assurance that all we are is on a positive redemptive track. Religious systems are grandmeaning carriers, enabling those who trust in them a certain clarity and focus in life.

The Loomis family lived not far from here. They had relatives in Pennsylvania and California. They were good-looking people and well-to-do. They had a dog and lived in big wooden houses. It looks as if prosperity undreamed of by their ancestors had come their way.

I don't know the Loomis family. I have their family photograph album, which I bought at a garage sale. It is almost 100 years old. I turn the pages delicately because the photos are brittle.

The photographs afford a glimpse of another time, another place that once mattered with all the mattering that fills our days and nights. They were taken just after the turn of the century. It was a marvelous time; technology had reached the point where things could be preserved, where the flow of time and experience could be better preserved on film. The Brownie camera had been popular for more than a decade. I imagine the Loomis family owned one.

Progress had ushered in a sense that there could be a certain "fix" on things. There was an air of mythic confidence that humanity was standing on thue threshold of unprecedented advaces. The carnage of World War I that would shatter this heady sense of progress was still a decade away.

The Loomis family, from their photos, seemed far removed from these issues of the day. There were wars going on, and the modernist crisis was causing a reaction in church policies that would affect it for years to come. The Titanic would be built and then plunge to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Maybe I read too much into their eyes. I see pride and what seems to be the flush of young love. I see sternness in an older woman. A woman in her 40s is prominent throughout the album. I wonder whether it was hers. The camera had a fine lens. I can see cracks in the leather shoes and creases in the fine dresses. I can see wisps in the feathers that adorned the women's large hats.

A friend was nearly moved to tears as she looked through the album. We looked through the telephone book and found a few Loomises. I might call them and ask whether they could be related.

But looking through the album on a quiet Sunday night, I feel peaceful. I look at their gazes, amid the cadence of passing cars and children playing across the street. I can see affection, fear, hope, promise: things that matter.

I am sure this book was intended to remain with the family, an enduring record of who was whom and what they looked like. But the book came my way.

It has served a purpose unforeseen by those long-ago Loomis friends and lovers. They seemed to have struggled with what matters, in a world fraught with woes and promise. We can hold only one hand at a time, and the heart is more than enriched by the heart of another. Mattering is a simple thing, really.

I can hear no farther than the low sound of the television downstairs, the passing cars and laughter in the street. Now that I think of it, the kids are playing in the rain.

Mattering is taking the courage, risking the purity of heart, to hold well what we have and trust that it is all we can matter about.

My friend would like to get the album back home. I wonder. Everything serves a purpose and can change to mean different things, even if discarded. It sort of grows someplace else.

I hear children playing in the rain. It will not be captured on film, but that isn't necessary. What matters is it simply is.
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Title Annotation:Starting Point
Author:Behrens, Jeff
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 18, 1993
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