In my room at my mother’s house, a dozen or more photo albums are stacked on the closet shelf, Sometimes, at night, when the house is quiet and dark, I pull one of those albums down and flip through the pages. We used to take a ton of photos. And not photos of scenery or empty swimming pools, but photos of people. Family and friends posing and smiling for the camera. Family and friends who are no longer with us, but so vivid, so alive in my mind as I turn the pages and remember.
I wish I had taken more photos while we were in California; the kind where you sit people down next to each other and yell “cheese.” I have just one photo of my son and my nephew together, no photos of me and my cousin, and not a single shot of the entire family. I’m not sure why I don’t take pictures like I used to.
I was thinking about this last night as I drifted off to sleep and I decided that the problem has everything to do with smart phones, with having a camera in my hands at all times. Taking a photo used to feel special, film cost money to buy and to develop, and everyone understood that snapping a photo had value — both in terms of dollars and cents, and capturing a moment in time, a memory. But with digital photography everything is disposable. Even those moments we cherish. And when you spend the entire day with a phone/camera in your pocket, you just don’t think about it in the same way. The novelty of my phone and the convenience of its camera is no longer a motivator, I move through life thinking there’s always tomorrow.
So this is my one regret about our summer. I have plenty of scenery shots; of palm trees and beaches and swimming pools. My son has hundreds of pictures of cars and car shows and collectible toys. But we don’t have any photos of us together, or with our family and friends. The special moments, the memories, the evenings sitting around the table — those things are gone.
I want to be mindful of this, to remember that there won’t always be another tomorrow. When we are together, we need to pause, get close, wrap our arms around each other and say “cheese.”