(Photo: The other day, during one of my photo admiring expeditions, I found this photo of my family from ten or so years ago. Pretty friggin’ adorable, if I don’t say so myself.)
I know that I should not go there. In that room off the guest room. The one with the box. And the other box. And stacks of tiny 4 x 5 flexible plastic albums.
It’s been years since I’ve let myself sort through our family photographs. But I’m trying to clear the clutter, my version of Spring cleaning. You have to get to the surfaces before you can clean them. Not that I ever get to the surfaces.
Every time I look at pictures, I lose hours of my life. Most of those hours, thankfully, are spent smiling and laughing and running around the house trying to find somebody to look at that one picture with that friend I haven’t seen in twenty years or that one so humiliating it should have been torched years ago but I can’t seem to let it go.
My husband keeps saying we should scan the old photos onto our computers. Then we can store them somewhere in the cloud and/or on a hard drive where we can access them at any time. And I know he’s right. It’s much easier to organize them online.
But I love pulling an armful of random photos out of a box, picking each one up, and thinking only about that picture–when it was taken, who’s in it, what I was feeling or thinking at the time, what it brings up for me now.
I love the messiness of the experience, the fact that the photo where I’m opening presents at my bridal shower at my Aunt Joan’s house is stuck between a batch of pictures of my daughter’s first birthday party in our backyard. I love that I don’t know what I’m going to find next and it brings all of those foggy memories rushing back.
It makes me sad that I am of the last generation that remembers flapping a Polaroid photo in my hand, anticipating the picture coming into focus.
It makes me sad that I am of the last generation that remembers the excitement of picking up our photos at the Fotomat, and looking through all the photos before driving away.
It makes me sad that I am the last generation that remembers the joy of finding a film canister with a roll of film that was never developed and having no idea when nor where the photos were taken and what we will find once the film is developed.
We take more photos today than we ever did, but because it’s so easy to do, we’ve lost our sense of wonder about what we’ve done–reproduced onto a surface an image of something that exists in the physical world. That is pretty amazing. Think about it.
Because I can’t bare the thought of losing them through a fire or a flood or some other disaster, I will scan as many photographs as I can onto our computer. But, I cannot throw the originals away, at least not all of them.
I need my box. I need to admire them one by one. I need to be in awe of how we can document our days through images that we can hold in the palm of our hands.
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