It Takes Two to Tango…and to Remember

“Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time.  I think I’ve forgotten this before.”             —Steve Wright

I’ve been working on the annotated picture album I mentioned a couple of posts ago, and it hasn’t been easy. When I look at some of the pictures, I can remember the events with such clarity, I feel I am right there. Other pictures make me scratch my head and ask myself, “When was this taken? What were we doing then?” I’m also finding huge gaps in time periods. I have pictures of my firstborn right after she was born, and then the pictures jump to the birth of my second child two years later. What happened to those two years in between? I have a feeling they were captured on slides which we never converted to digital prints and may never see because they have deteriorated so much over the years. Sitting in a hot garage will do that to slides, but we have nowhere else to store them.

Yesterday I sat down with my husband so he could see the progress (or lack of) I’ve made with the album so far. Over a glass of wine, we talked about the time period those pictures captured. My husband’s memory has always been better than mine (older memories, that is. He has trouble remembering something I told him five minutes ago). Once he started talking, not only did the memory of that moment emerge for me, a flood of other memories came with it. And things my husband didn’t remember, I filled in.

What I find about memory is not only do we remember things differently, some things form stronger connections in our mind because of who we are. What might be an important detail for me, might not have been so important to George, so I remember something he doesn’t and vice versa. Memory is attached to feelings, and our feelings can obscure the facts. That is why it takes two of us to fully remember an event. The more we talked, the more I was amazed that memories I thought were lost, reappeared. But I know the fleeting nature of memory, and so I write what details I can so when the time comes that I forget yet again, the words will pull them out of my heart.

imageGoing through an old album and choosing pictures for my annotated project, I came across a Kodak Polaroid shot of George sitting at his desk at the police station in his police uniform. It is faded and grainy, but it is the only picture we have of him in uniform, so it is going in my new album. Why is it the only shot of him in uniform?  All those opportunities we had to take more, and we never took them. We never thought about the future and wanting to record it for posterity. All the years he wore those uniforms, the years I took the collars and cuffs off his uniform shirts, flipped them and then resewed them to hide the worn parts so we could get a little more out of those expensive shirts. And all we have is that one faded picture. Though George and I will never forget those times, it would have been nice to have more pictures to show the children and grandchildren. But we can’t photograph everything.  We can’t carry our cameras around our necks every moment of our lives so we can keep a constant record. That record we carry in our hearts, and we can only share so much of it.

What George and I have decided to do is to videotape some of our talks about the pictures and put them on DVDs and slip them into a pocket in my annotated album. Even if there aren’t enough pictures to go along with our memories, our posterity will be able to hear our voices and see our faces as we talk about the richness of our lives together. Of all the things we could leave our children, I think that would be one of the best.

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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27 Responses to It Takes Two to Tango…and to Remember

  1. I love that idea! My mom is almost 80 and one of the issues I’m facing is her memory is fading fast. I love to go through her old photo albums and listen to her telling stories. Makes me realize I need to start recording my own memories and past for my kids to hear one day.

  2. Ever since I took possession of my parents’ ‘historical’ photo albums, I’ve been doing a lot of family research to try to ‘fill in the gaps’ – and I’ve realized that I really don’t know much about my Mom and Dad before they were ‘my parents’. I’m going to take what I have and write up their stories as best I can, but I’ve decided to do the same thing with my own history (so my my boys will have something to look back on in years to come). I hadn’t thought about including a narrative – what a great idea!


  3. pattisj says:

    DVDs are a great idea–until that technology goes by the wayside.

  4. I’d say you’re making good progress. Isn’t it amazing what memories photos will invoke? My hubby is much like yours in the remembering department – doesn’t remember the thing I just asked him to do but remembers something from 25 years ago. He comes up with some things I absolutely forgot. Then our kids will say, “Don’t you remember when we did this… or that…?” and I’m stumped! No recollection of that at all.

    • Coming East says:

      And we remember things so differently from our kids, don’t we? I don’t think they realize what it was like during their teenage years…at least not from a parent’s perspective.

  5. Amy says:

    Videotaping some of your conversation with George is a cool idea! I’d love to see your scrapbooks and to hear your stories. I guess I have to fly to VB 🙂

  6. Dianna says:

    Aw….what a great idea to videotape some of your memories. Your post today summarizes why I’m constantly taking pictures. (My son, Marshall, visits regularly to back them up for me, and he can attest to how many I take!). I just want to capture as many memories as I can.
    I’m glad you have at least one picture of your hubby in his uniform!

    • Coming East says:

      And you have so many gorgeous shots, Dianna. I get lazy and forget my camera a lot, or I being it and then forget to take pictures. I still think I have more than a lot of people, though.

  7. That is hands down the best idea I’ve heard in quite some time! Your children and grandchildren will have something to treasure that is for sure.

  8. Patti Ross says:

    Great post. Loved the opening quote! And then felt right with you reviewing my own family photos to decide what to keep and why. Your plan to record the conversations about memories is so brilliant. Love it!

  9. What a great idea of recording your conversations together and such a fun project to do together…ongoing. Although you have only that one photo of George in uniform, the conversation will certainly conjure up other images, and the “true” words to the story.
    I’m heartened that my phone takes pictures, however downloading is the bridge that may or may not allow passage of those photos. Digital native I am not. However, we certainly do take better photos than in the days of film.

    • Coming East says:

      We take so many more pictures now, Georgette, because digital is so easy and cheap, not like the days of film and developing. But at least in the “old days,” we had something tangible to out into albums. I have thousands of digital pictures, and I can’t start printing out a fraction of them because of the cost. Plus, even though they are backed up, I worry that Through some glitch, I will lose all of them.

  10. What a wonderful post! It encourages me to do the same with my pictures. I just went through a bunch of my photos and I realized I have only a couple pictures of my hubby in uniform, after almost twenty one years in the military and I have less than a handful of him in uniform. The ones I do have, I didn’t take… what were we thinking? My youngest doesn’t really remember her dad in uniform, she was young when he retired. Great post, loved it! DAF

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, DAF. I wonder what other memories we’ve lost because we never captured them on film? Now with camera phones, we will have a camera ready at all times. Well, some of us will. I still have an ancient stupid phone with a terrible camera. I haven’t yet moved up into the ranks of the smartphone users.

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