I am blessed to be the mom of two amazing boys – one, a 13 year old teenager (which is very difficult for me to accept) and one who is at the impressionable age of 10. On September 11 this year, as we watched the horrifying images from 12 years ago, my kids began to ask questions. I pulled out my scrapbook where I had carefully recorded my pictures from that day and written a letter to my son, who was at the time only a year old. In the process, the boys kept turning the pages and looking at pictures of this amazing teenager when he was just a baby. My 10 year old asked to look at pictures of himself at that age. I pulled out the book and we started looking, and discovered that the pages stopped suddenly. With deep disappointment in his eyes, my precious boy asked where the rest of his pictures were. I came to a stunning revelation. The rest of his pictures are in folders on my computer; because once I started shooting digitally, I stopped printing pictures. Why should I print these, I had once thought, when I can always look at them on my computer?
And yet, the truth of the matter is, they are buried in folders and I don’t ever look at them. I really wouldn’t know where to start. It made me start to think about what we are doing to ourselves in this digital age. Everything is “in the cloud” but in truth, a cloud in nothing but a wisp of air. The wind can blow and it will dissipate. Isn’t the same true when we keep our memories in digital cyberspace? A hard drive can fail, a folder can be accidentally deleted, a DVD can break in half. And, truth be told, what is to say that we will even be able to access the files we have stored in 40 years. When I was in my 20s, I bought all the Disney movies on VHS before they went in the vault so I could watch my favorite princesses with my darling children. Setting aside the fact that I had boys who thought princess movies were boring and stupid, by the time my children were born, we didn’t even own a VCR and couldn’t watch the movies even if we wanted to. Why do we think that our DVDs and USBs and external hard drives won’t meet the same fate someday?
But beyond all of the technical thoughts, what shook me to the core was that because my memories were in folders on my computer, my children were missing a part of their past. They wanted to connect with who they once were, but had nothing to refer to. So, I set out on a task. I am going through folder by folder and printing all of the images I have saved. MPIX is going to make a fortune on me over the next few months. Forget the creative and beautiful scrapbook, I bought a photo album with slip in pockets for my pictures – after all, they are boys and wouldn’t appreciate a creative effort even if I had time to do it. I spent the weekend looking through these pictures I had printed and putting them in the page pockets. My greatest joy was hearing the giggles as my 10 year old found a picture of his brother running around naked with a diaper on his head; and my 13 year old laughed at memories long forgotten but brought back to his mind.
And so my sisters, I encourage you. Don’t get so caught up in today’s digital cloud that you accidentally neglect to preserve your present and your past. There is something to be said about remembering the milestones in life and being able to share them tangibly with your family. Life is too short to be tucked away in cyberspace. Some things should never become retro – our memories should always be present.
I leave you today with a silly outtake from our family pictures this year. You can be sure this will be printed and preserved. I love my precious family and am so glad we can remember this silly day together!
Text written by Aimee Woolverton, CPP
Image taken by Tamara Starkey