Where Did Those Memories Go?

This week’s Red Dress Club‘s Red Writing Hood prompt is  a picture prompt about cameras, and it is limited to 400 words.
It can be fiction or non-fiction.  I chose non-fiction.


Nineteen fifty-nine was an important year.  Alaska and Hawaii became states, Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, the Guggenheim Museum opened in New York City, Barbie was introduced to the world, and I got my first camera, a little Kodak Brownie.

I have been intrigued with photography ever since I saw my first disks of Hawaii and Belgium on my View-Master.  I wanted to one day take pictures like that, vivid images (of course they were in 3-D, but what did my little ten-year-old mind know?) that made the viewer feel as if he or she were right there watching the lava flow from a volcano or standing in front of the Grand Place in Brussels.

My father was quite a good amateur photographer and had rolls upon rolls of negatives in little canisters.  His favorite subject was my mother, and no wonder, for she was a beauty, for sure.  I, on the other hand, was less selective.  Anything and everything was worthy of my snapping a picture and capturing it forever.  At least until my father noticed I was going through film as if it were as cheap as gasoline and told me I was responsible for the developing costs and the cost of new film.  I got serious.  I saved my photo ops for occasions like going to the Museum of Natural History in New York City with my father or to the United Nations, or visiting my cousins on summer vacations in Ohio.

I remember the anticipation I felt with every new roll, threading the end of it onto the spool, closing the camera, and then advancing the film until the number one appeared in a little window.  Now I had twelve pictures I could take.  Twelve opportunities I didn’t want to squander, so I took my time and picked my subjects as if they were going to be on the cover of Life magazine.

I have albums and albums filled with pictures I’ve taken as well as many trays of slides, but none of them are from those early years when I got my first camera.  Where did those pictures go?  I can’t imagine that I would have thrown them away, but they are nowhere to be found.  Along with their disappearance are the memories they captured. As I get older, I find it more difficult to recapture the past.  I sometimes wish I could be injected with truth serum that would resurrect my childhood, allowing me to see it with clarity.  Those pictures would have been a good substitute.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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26 Responses to Where Did Those Memories Go?

  1. Laura Drake says:

    I’m obviously older than you, I remember my dad taking photos at the Thanksgiving table. He’d lick his fingers, and take the used flashbulb out and throw it away. Then he’d pull out the picture from the camera, and open a little black plastic case and take out the “fixer”, a gooey applicator, and swipe it over the photo. Then we’d all gather around and oohh and ahhh as the photo appeared before our eyes like magic!

    The black and white photos from my childhood are some of my most precious possessions.
    Thanks for the great post!

    • comingeast says:

      Are you really sure you’re older than me? I remember those flashbulbs, too, but I don’t remember being able to see the picture right away until Polaroid came up with the instant picture. I was born in the ’40’s and grew up in the ’50’s and ’60’s.

  2. angela says:

    A lovely choice for non-fiction here. The end of this piece is the reason I am so obsessive with pictures of my kids. I have a terrible memory and wish I had more pictures from my childhood. There are lots, but I still wish for more (greedy, I know). It’s wonderful, in a way, to not have the constraints of paying for film/developing now, though I know many people feel that digital photography isn’t quite the same art form as film photography.

    • comingeast says:

      Even professional photographers use digital cameras nowadays. The digital SLR’s can do amazing things. I’m sorry to hear your memory is as bad as mine. I know how frustrating that is! Thanks for your comment.

  3. Terry says:

    My Dad always had the camera out. We had trays and trays of slides. When he was diagnosed with cancer he sat and video taped a silde show of ALL the slides. With his narration behind it. This is a treasure he left us.

  4. Carrie says:

    It’s amazing to think that just a short time ago you really had to be so selective. Now we can just click click click to our hearts content!

    Thanks for sharing

  5. Patti Ross says:

    Oh what fun memories you have shared and triggered. We too had a view master–and my first camera was a brownie–such fun. Thanks for sharing.

  6. mypajamadays says:

    I was just wondering recently what happened to all the pictures I know I took, or were taken of me, in high school. School dances, friends’ parties, etc. they are long gone. Just recently though, I found a bag full of undeveloped film – like 20 rolls! I should really start taking them in to be developed and see what treasures are waiting for me.

    • comingeast says:

      I know, isn’t it crazy that they just disappeared like mine? I know I didn’t throw mine or yours away, and why would you have thrown your away? So where are they?

  7. Galit Breen says:

    I adore that you chose NF for this- and that you revealed so very much here- about your youth, your passions.

    This line towards the end -I sometimes wish I could be injected with truth serum that would resurrect my childhood, allowing me to see it with clarity- is so poignant and wistful. It made me want to go looking for those photos for you! 🙂

    • comingeast says:

      Oh, would you, Galit? I’ve always envied people who could remember their childhoods in minute detail. I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning.

  8. Great memories here, View-Master (loved ours and dreaming of those far-away places!) and first cameras. Pictures play such an important part in our lives. I still have boxes of photos to go through that were my parents’. Occasionally, I look through some and think, “Wow, I’d forgotten about this.” The photos capture what our minds so easily forget. Nice post!

  9. I remember Viewmasters and Brownie cameras! My father had one and occasionally let us use it. He developed his own film, his daughters as assistants. I’ll never forget the beauty and magic of watching white paper fill with an image.

    • comingeast says:

      I vaguely remember my father developing his own film, too. Or do I just imagine that? Sometimes I remember things that didn’t even happen! Did you ever have a camera of your own when you were a child?

  10. huffygirl says:

    I must have 20 albums of photos, plus some in boxes that never made it to the albums. I was the kid who was seldom photographed growing up and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to my kids. I loved the Brownie camera commercial – why did we not think those commercials were dorky back then? Thanks for sharing your story.

    • comingeast says:

      Yes, wasn’t that hokey? Nothing ever happened on Ozzie and Harriet, and we never could figure out what Ozzie did for a living, but we loved that show just the same.

  11. Ooooh. Good idea! A camera that captures everything the moment holds…hmmm…

    • comingeast says:

      Okay, J to E, when you hit the Big Time with that screenplay, you have to say, “I want to thank one of the little people for giving me the idea, Susan Okaty, from Coming East. Of course, she could have written it herself and made all this money I’m making, but she was too darn lazy.”

  12. I want a camera, I don’t think I’d take pictures to remind me of family or events but of feelings and beauty…does that make sense?

    • comingeast says:

      I’m not sure a camera can really do that. It only captures a flat image and we imbue that image with the emotions. But don’t you wish there was a camera that did that? Sounds like screenplay idea to me!

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