During my father’s retirement, my mother tasked him with organizing family photos into four albums, one for each of us siblings. My father himself had taken photos in the form of slides. The photos were pre-slide, accumulated over many years from many people.
Organizing photos is the ubiquitous retirement experience. I presented the collection of family slides to my older brother at his retirement, happy to clear some shelves in our closet. A few years later, improved technology and the pandemic provided him an opportunity to complete the task, making them accessible to everyone in the family.
I have yet to transcribe my dad’s handwritten notes, composed in pencil on the back of the church newsletter. All you who knew my parents may nod in tribute as a recognition of this frugal habit.
Mike is now digitizing all our photos and slides. It is my job to discard them. Unless very unique, photos of scenery and monuments bypass the scanner and fall directly into the trash. If I want a picture of the Vatican, I Google.
I set aside many of the snapshots to share with family and friends before consigning them to the circular file. The task requires decision making, which exhausts me mentally. As I toss the recorded memories, I experience a tear in my heart. (As in rip, not eye juice. Darn English.)
Is my soul threatened?
There are cultures that shirk photography in fear that it robs them of their souls. Although the belief is considered superstitious and quaint by most of us, there are people who claim to have scientific proof of this. There are also philosophical and psychological arguments against having your photo taken too often. One article offered Britney Spears and models as evidence. I invite you to Google the topic; it makes for fun reading.
I consider myself in the non-superstitious. However, as I peruse these photos, hearing the voices of loved ones long gone, recalling the fragrance of babies now grown, and enjoying the laughter of friends far away, the pictures are alive.
Preserving my memories
As I set the photos into the trash, a part of me weeps. If the photos are gone, will my memories disappear? Worse, will those events and people have never existed? Out of sight, out of mind. As I age, that adage rings true.
The photos live on in the digital world, my access limited only by my fumbling efforts to overcome technological challenges. We are clearing our shelves for our future downsizing and future experiences. There is an element, though, of erasing part of our history.