Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it would be like if I had no photographs. No family pictures, no holiday photos, no moments in time captured forever in a two-second snap.
It wasn’t so long ago that photographs were a rarity. I have a few photos of my great-grandparents; one that is formal and posed, a scene from their wedding day, and a handful of others reflecting daily life with the family. I also have two or three of my great-great grandparents, but none from earlier generations. All together, the photos I have fit into one thin envelope and represent a tiny fraction of the days that my ancestors spent on this earth.
In contrast, my life and my children’s lives are captured in countless pictures. Halloween costumes, first days of school, family pets – chances are, there’s a photo somewhere. Even the ordinary moments -the ones around the breakfast table, or in a car, or on a sidewalk – none of them obviously noteworthy but still, at that time, calling to be captured, are available to me.
I’m glad to have these records. There are some that I truly treasure. I like the visual reminders of happy times and everyday life. I appreciate being able to see the people I love, at all the stages and days, especially those people who are no longer here.
I remind myself, however, that the lack of a photograph doesn’t mean the moments and the people didn’t exist. That, in fact, generations of people have lived full, complete, purposeful lives without photographic evidence of their days. I must be careful not to equate the ease of taking a picture, of grabbing an experience and making it repeatable anytime I want to see it again, with the value of what is contained in the photograph.
The moments that make up our lives – the laughter and tears, celebrations and failures, love and connections – are what is real. It doesn’t matter whether any of them are captured forever in a two-second snap.
Here’s to memories and the people within them. They are all meaningful, even when the proof is only in our hearts.