“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.
Going 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.