I considered writing about a couple of different things this week, and as it turns out, I’m not writing about any of them.
Over the past couple of years, I sent a lot of pictures to a company that scans and transfers them to a USB drive. I’ve had all the thumb drives sitting in an envelope in a little safe here at home. It’s been on my “To-Do List” for ages to upload them all to my computer, and this week I finally took a couple of hours to do it.
There were a few handfuls of home video camera cassettes that I sent in to be digitized. My husband Chris and I were never good about labeling them. We would frequently film something and then never film anything else on the cassette, because we’d lose track and forget. In the grand scope of time 20 years isn’t very long, but in terms of shooting personal video, the difference is incredible. Now we can film everything on our telephones, and store things in our computer or in a cloud. It’s so simple and so accessible.
Well, I uploaded several thousand still photos and the digitized copies of the videotapes. Nothing comes back in any type of chronological order – although, to be fair, the majority were not submitted in a chronological order. I clicked on a bunch of the photos and a couple of the videos and got sucked into a rabbit hole of jumbled memories. Each brought me back to reliving the actual moments in vivid color. Yes, I realize that’s the purpose of taking photos or videos. I didn’t realize that the viewing experience would hit me so hard.
Chris, Amanda, Me, Santa at the mall. Messy me & Barbie Beach Bus, 1970’s
The very first videotape I clicked on ended up being my husband and I with Amanda at a birthday party for a friend’s child on August 31st, 2001. When that ends there’s a few minutes of blank tape and then it opens on footage shot at the home of my husband’s parents in the early afternoon of September 11th, 2001. We’re watching live television coverage of the unfolding tragedy, and discussing it, and our baby is playing and exploring in the background. Some of my husband’s commentary about the second plane flying over his head and his thoughts is chilling; I remembered it but hearing him say it live in that first moment again was an emotional experience.
Visually scanning briefly through videos and more than thousands of thumbnails of still photos, my eyes naturally zeroed in on things with Christmas colors and Christmas trees or lights in the background because it’s currently the holiday season. Within a short time span, I surveyed a lifetime of Christmas memories. It was like a movie film sequence running rapid-fire through my head. I clicked back to the folder of digitized videos and watched parts of a few that clearly at least began with Christmas time.
As I write this, I confess that I’m emotionally drained. The love of my life … stolen away so tragically. My parents, gone too young. My grandfathers, gone too young. So many important people in my life, here no more. Friends I used to love more than family, gone onto paths in life that left me behind. Family members who never stayed in touch has life changed. Children growing up so fast, it’s dizzying.
These pictures have tortured me today. But I’ll be diving more deeply into them a little bit each day because I need to label and categorize them. Some people in the pictures I don’t remember or never even met, and will have to dig to find out about them – if it’s even possible to do so. Along with the bittersweet and melancholy memories, there were some really funny moments with this in the past few days.
For example, I called my 16-year-old son over to watch a video that had been made in our pool. At the time of the video, he wasn’t even two years old. My son was sprawled face-down, bare-bottomed on a kickboard and my husband was pulling him around through the water. Present day son groaned, “Really, Mom? That’s so embarrassing!” Just a couple of seconds later, from the screen I can be heard saying, “When he’s sixteen, and sees this he’s going to be so embarrassed!” The moment in the present time couldn’t have been funnier or more perfect.
I hope to allocate 30 to 45 minutes each day to label and organize photos and videos. I’ll be setting an alarm each time, so I don’t get sucked into spending half the day. But if I don’t do it, if I don’t try and make the time to tackle this, who will?
It’s the same reason I spent years tracking down family genealogy. Only one of my three kids really appreciates it now, but I believe that eventually, they all will. And it’s a legacy that will pass down to their children.
Photos in any form capture moments in time. Some people need to focus more on living and less on documenting every tiny detail of every single day. In a broader context though, it’s no exaggeration to say that memories are priceless. Ironically, it’s rare that Chris and I are in the same photo. We did so many things where it was just the two of us, so either of us would take the photo and the other person or the location would be in it. We didn’t have cameras with timers, go places hauling along a camera tripod to position it upon. Looking back, I wish that sometimes we had.
Have you scanned and digitized your own photos and family videotapes? Did you use a service? I used Legacybox. I’m considering trying to do a giveaway of some type early next year where somebody can win the opportunity to have a certain amount of their memories put onto a USB. Is that something that would interest you? usual, reach out and tell me what you think – firstname.lastname@example.org.