A room full of memories

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like there just aren’t enough hours to get everything done? It’s strange, isn’t it? Some days everything drags by and you’re staring at the wall trying to find something to make life interesting. Others everything rushes by and before you know it, you haven’t got half as much done as you wanted to.

That’s been me for the last few days – distracted. And of course it always happens at the worst possible time. For me that’s just as I’m getting back into my writing, and just as I had some interesting topics to blog about as well. Plus now I’ve got to catch up with all my favourite blogs again.

The weird thing is, I haven’t been particularly busy. It’s just that my mother decided it was time to get her first computer recently, so after helping her choose and set it up, I started moving all of the old photos I’d kept on my computer over to hers. And I couldn’t believe just how many I’d forgotten.

It’s funny the things we remember. I know all the words to “Henry Lee”, but do I remember my first day of school? Or the face of the first girl I had a crush on? As I’ve grown older, the things I remember aren’t what I thought they’d be. Some of the photos bring it back but on the whole I can’t help but feel like I’ve neglected a large part of what should have been important to me. I suppose we all do that, though. We remember what was important to us at the time, but when we look back we realise it wasn’t that important and what really mattered is foggy and unclear.

It was a strange feeling, sitting at my computer and then opening up a few photo albums, seeing these images I barely remembered… it was like a room full of memories that belonged to someone else. It was nice to take that time, to remember and look at those photos, but it still felt distant. Makes me wonder what I’ll remember in another twenty years. To be fair, though, it does work the other way as well; a photo captures a moment, but it doesn’t always capture a memory. There was one photo in particular I kept looking at. It was taken the morning of my last day in Year 2. I was smiling and it captured that moment, but that’s not the memory that comes from it. Instead it’s that a few hours later I was pushed into a concrete pillar and spent four hours with a concussion in the school sickroom. That I remember; sometimes a photo doesn’t tell the whole story.

I guess this is important to me because memories are important to me; I value them as part of what makes me who I am, both the good and the bad ones. Photos are great for reliving a moment but I don’t trust them. They often give you a false memory; you see a photo, ask someone what was happening when it was taken, and from then on you remember it from their perspective, not yours. That’s the same reason I cringe when I see people photoshopping photos. There’s nothing wrong with touching up an image but when you start taking away too many of the flaws, or put a person into it who wasn’t there, you’re trying to improve the memory, not the photo, and it’s not real. Once again nothing is so beautiful that we can’t improve it by tweaking it just a little…

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t updated the blog for a couple of days; I’ve been busy in the past. I’m refocused now, though, and to my blog friends, I promise I’ll be popping across to catch up later. And maybe you can tell me if you’re as forgetful as I am. 😉

7 thoughts on “A room full of memories

  1. i don’t like photoshopped pictures either. i rather just delete the ugly ones. 😛 but that means the pictures which don’t get the chop are just selective memories, aren’t they?

    oh well, i don’t think i need pictures to remember the bad times! they’re the ones hardest to forget, after all. 😉

    CJ: Yeah, I do the same. Any picture that doesn’t look right is gone from my camera long before it would see Photoshop! 😉 But I think whether that’s a selective memory or not depends more on the pictures you’re taking… I use my digital camera more now and I’ve got into the habit of taking the same picture several times. I choose the one which shows that moment best (in case my finger was blocking the lens, etc), but I’m not trying to change it… it’s being selective, but it’s not giving it a different perspective, so I think that’s okay.

    And LOL, aren’t the bad memories always the ones that stick around? Still, they’re character building. Maybe I need to do more crosswords or sudoku so I can remember the good ones too. 🙂

  2. I have boxes and boxes of old family photos, and I love going through them from time to time. I cherish the old, stiff studio shots of my great grandparents, the black and white ones that my grandfather developed in his darkroom, and the strangely colored Polaroids from when I was a kid. Thank goodness there was no photoshop back then, and no one-hour developers. These pictures are truly a part of history. Not just my family’s history, but kind of a history of photography as well.

    CJ: When I was looking through some of the photo albums, I found some of my father and his mother which were in black and white. They were just stunning; timeless. It seems like we’re all about better technology and more detailed pictures these days, but I think there’s a lot to be said for an earlier, elegant photo, what it can teach you about history and individuals.

    Thanks for the comment, Moonbeam. Your photos sound just beautiful. 🙂

  3. what a title! totally rocks!!

    as for memories, well, maybe i am a bit lucky. cos i don’t have an awful lot of images to deal with. there’s no digital camera in my home. well, i have one, but i use it as a sketch book, rather than to take snaps for future. so, it’s like every photo from our household is precious. we have too little, rather than too much.

    that’s a downside of digital techno i think. you end up having so many pieces of memory that you don’t really care about.

    CJ: Hey, thanks Sanjida! I love the title too and it was actually one of the reasons I wanted to do the post. I just had to find a way to fit it into the post, and I think I pulled it off. 😉

    How do you use a camera as a sketch book? You mean you use it as ideas for art? I know what you mean about every photo being precious, though. We’ve taken less and less over the last 6 years or so, and it makes the really good ones very special. Particularly if they’re of moments that are very close to your heart.

    And that’s one of the cons of technology, isn’t it? We make the quality so perfect, and make it so easy to take images, that it becomes normal, and they’re just not special anymore. Like everything it’s about finding a balance…. were it so easy! 😛

  4. We have a photo wall in our sitting room, with pictures of family members going back to the 1860s. Our boys know everyone and how they relate to them, but they also serve as good stepping off points for impromptu discussions about social history.

    I know that sounds dry and academic, but there’s no other way of describing.

    As an example, we have a photo of my father, a section commander, with his radioman as they prepare to head out patrol during the Vietnam War. The photo has served as a stepping off point for many conversations, short and long, about being a soldier, about Vietnam, about the Vietname War, about my dad, about the other man in the photo, about forgiveness and reconciliation, about radios and how they work, and many, many more.

    Then there’s the photo of Susannah Larbey, circa 1900-01. She’s an old lady, dressed in out-of-date finery (even then) and with an enigmatic smile. Her story starts with birth in Godalming in 1833, continues with her emigration to Australia in 1852, takes her through three husbands, 12 children and several step-children, from a servant girl to a pioneer to an esteemed member of her community, up to her death “setting in her chair by the fireside” in 1907. How many conversations have been started by people looking at her?

    For us, photographs are a hugely valued way of keeping family members present and alive for generations after their deaths, and also a means for connecting the present to the past in a way that has meaning into future.

    CJ: What a wonderful picture you paint, Stone. Thank you. I can almost imagine your sitting room and I don’t think that sounds academic at all. The past is such an important part of our lives; who are we really if we don’t know where we came from? To be able to look at a photo like the one of your father and be able to learn about him from you, and about that era, must be of a wonderful benefit to your boys.

    We had a few photos out when I was younger and we found one a couple of months ago which my parents had stored in the garage for years. It’s of me when I was four sitting on a ledge opposite Buckingham Palace and it brings back a few memories (or ones I’ve been reminded of anyway). My parents have just put it back up now and it gets a few glances from people when they come to visit. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s dated in another twenty years or so; a lot of the grounds have changed already, but it’s a little piece of history there on the wall. 🙂

  5. um, i use my digital camera to record my surroundings, moments, gestures. things pass me by and it’s hard to remember or sketch everything. but having a digital camera helps me gather raw material to mull over. some eventually get worked out as projects. others just lie around.

    actually, some are blog material, too! but we’ll see that a bit later, when that future art blog of mine sees rgb light! 😀

    i’m too concerned with some issus and that blog is going to seed even before it is born, sigh!

    CJ: Ah, that makes sense. You use it like a catalogue; something you can look back at for inspiration. Cool. I have a recorder for notes for my writing, so I sort of know what you mean; it beats keeping track of 50 pages of notes!

    That blog will be good when you start it. I guess copyright would be one of the main issues, but it’d be great to highlight your work. Can’t wait to see some of it. 🙂

  6. I look at pictures (and videos) of me as a child and it’s like looking at a stranger. I have very few memories of growing up. And the ones I do aren’t very pleasant. I can ask family members about the pictures but I get mainly monosyllabic answers. I wish I could remember more about my childhood, but I’ve come to accept that most of it probably gone forever.

    CJ: I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t remember as much as I’d like to either, but at least there are things like photos which can help preserve some of the moments. What I find sparks a memory for me more often than anything else, though, is listening to the radio and hearing an old song, or flicking through tv channels and seeing an old film… it reminds me of what I was doing at the time. That’s a nice way to remember and for some reason it feels more organic to me than looking at moment which seems like it belonged to someone else.

  7. My family lost a lot of photos due to a misunderstanding (they got chucked out accidentally), so sometimes it seems as if the middle of my life is missing–and what a time. What’s missing is my entire adolescence. So I have me as a little kid, then I’m magically all grown up! It’s kind of weird, but kind of good, too. My teenage years were not my happiest. I’m delighted, now though, so it would be interesting to have some pics of those years to get a clue about how I was feeling then.
    Your post was great! Very interesting that you came upon a photo of a “happy” event, which triggered the memory of later injuries. Mind, memory, and emotions are all such a mystery.
    I also relate to your being distracted from writing/blogging by all this. I think we periodically need to give ourselves these times to “take stock”.
    I liked stonehead’s description of the photo wall. Very vivid. The boys are fortunate to have this visual history and conversation starter.

    CJ: You lost all of them? Ouch. I know adolescence isn’t always pleasant to look back on, but maybe you’re a different person now anyway. I have the opposite problem; we took a few but mostly they were on digital cameras, so any I didn’t like I just deleted. 😉

    I think the reason that photo triggered the memory for me is that the more painful memories are closer to the surface; not in that I’m always thinking about them, but they’ve built my character more than the others. And the emotion comes from that connection. It’s funny, though, most people don’t remember being concussed; I have the opposite problem!

    Hm, we do all need a bit of a break sometimes, don’t we? I know with writing that if I’m writing because I feel I have to, I’m just producing crap. Creativity doesn’t work like that and it doesn’t for blogging either, not for meaningful posts. I think it’s actually refreshed me, so it was probably a good thing. And wasn’t Stone’s comment great? Makes me want to run out and buy a piece of Australiana to put on my wall. 😛

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