I have tens of thousands measured not in numbers now but in gigabytes.
My task is done, for now. Digital photos uploaded to a cloud to safeguard my past if the drive crashes. Who really will want them though? Who will set up a slide show and remember when I’m gone?
I came up with an indicator of someone’s tangible interest in getting to know you. Do they want to look at old photos and listen to stories from your past? I came up with this after Jacob’s divorce. “Did your ex-wife ever look at all the photos I gave you from your childhood?” I asked.
A couple of years ago on Thanksgiving I was in the home of Jacob’s future wife and later ex-wife looking at photos from her family’s past. The story was not just in the old photos but about how we came to see them that day. They were rescued by chance from the garbage. A family member who was driving by a house where they had once lived saw boxes on the curb. So she stopped. There she found pieces of their family’s history. I was interested in the old pictures because this was the family Jacob would join.
Many years earlier I sat with my second family in a dark kitchen clicking through slides of their earlier years. The years before me. I remember the awkward laugh or maybe it was a laden silence when my husband’s first wife slid onto the screen. It was their wedding. Small like ours. It was part of the family story. And I wanted to know it.
After death I was the curator of my two families’ history in pictures. I sorted and scanned to digital. Then I watched them burn. Except for the oldest and a few sentimental favorites. Later I had regrets for not scanning some slides from my parents’ 1965 People to People tour of Europe. A few photos at Checkpoint Charlie and fat women in skimpy bikinis on the beach at the Black Sea. Moscow and Red Square. Bicycles in Copenhagen. I clearly lacked the insight to know what I would want in the future. And I believed that someday we would go to those places and take our own pictures. Except never at Checkpoint Charlie. C’est la vie!
My recent work was not just uploading. It was cropping. Deleting, even old favorites. What was a memory to keep a year ago had become one to let go. My fiction. Time to put out the garbage.