I am thirty four. I still reach for a frilly crocheted photo album with yellowed cellophane on my parent’s couch when I want to see my childhood. I love that befrilled book because of the remembering.
Mom’s high cheekbones, her smile infectious, right next to my dad’s. He’s giving her a piggyback ride. There’s me, two years old and rarely wearing pants. I have a cheeky smile and cut-off t-shirt. They loved me. There is the old green carpet, the golden brocade curtains. There are the high-backed wrought iron dining room chairs my belt loops always got caught on. The shaggy cedars behind the house that aren’t there anymore.
Every image pushes play on a memory, an impression, fleeting and golden. These pictures matter. They are not perfectly exposed or even in focus — it was film and you get what you get. But they are happy and good. I want my children to hold onto something so happy and good.
Every image pushes play on a memory, an impression, fleeting and golden. These pictures matter.
But making something happy and good takes time, and when a thing has been sitting on the proverbial backburner five years strong, it tends to stay put, law of inertia being what it is. Do you have any idea how many photos you have? Infinite, probably, or whatever ghastly number my hard drive will hold. Do you know how long this will take? Hours. Maybe days.
Do you know that they've never seen themselves in pictures before, no cellophane album to sit with? Oh. It has to be now.
They need to see us. They need to see how we love them. They need to see their own tooth-missing smiles and dirty fingers and how we played. How we ran through the sprinklers. How we rocked on the porch at night, the honey milkweed vine wrapped around us in a cloud of heaven, the train whistle blowing through town, neighbors waving goodwill on their walks. Can they smell the beans roasting when they see themselves drinking hot chocolate at our favorite coffee shops? Can she remember what the violet crinoline tutu felt like on her legs and the rush of a good twirl? Can they remember the way the sun spilled over afternoon tea, watery light rippling from the old panes, the house we brought them all home to but don't live in anymore? That first garden where daddy taught them to dig and sow and water and tend, where they taught themselves the culinary delicacies of acorn soup and mint mud pie?
This book was no longer a project to conquer; it was the chance to see my babies again. To remember their edible cheeks. They way they cuddled just so.
And so the sifting began, an object now in motion. Nine years of family photos - a feat for even the most stalwart of memory keepers - and it was so good to see them again, to remember. This book was no longer a project to conquer; it was the chance to see my babies again. To remember their edible cheeks. They way they cuddled just so. To go back and glimpse their quirky expressions and outfits and I swear I could hear their voices, those ones I'll never get back, that only exist in my memories. And there I am, too, holding them and smiling, cheekbones like my mom, and I hope they'll see me looking at them and smile. This time affair is too fast, too fleeting and I want to stop it in its tracks, but I know that all we can do is live fully in the now, writing our memories on our hearts and pause to take a picture.
And pause again to look at the picture.
And pause again to put those pictures in a perfect place so we can pause again and again.
I know that all we can do is live fully in the now, writing our memories on our hearts and pause to take a picture.
After hours of initial curating and coffee, I pulled my husband to my side and invited him to see and remember, too. Together we made cuts and smiled over the shared history we created. We condensed thousands and thousands of squares into a 400+ gallery of what was best — what triggered a smile or a story. Not necessarily the pretty ones. Those are for frames. This was a story. This was a book to remember, and we wanted to remember the nuanced expressions and tiny moments that conjure joy. The mad faces. The wild antics. All of it.
And when you want a book, you want the best, because you want to hold it forever. Cloth bound for a lifetime of turning. Velvety matte dust jacket eyes are drawn to and fingers itch to pick up. Rich photos adorning every page, set like diamonds in the simplest and most striking white border, making memories both a piece of art and a most beloved possession.
It is a magical thing for a physical object to become the home for memories that until then live only inside of you. Magic.
Not necessarily the pretty ones. Those are for frames. This was a story... we wanted to remember the nuanced expressions and tiny moments that conjure joy.
I took the photos. I made a place for them. I hit print. And then I got a box. And then we smiled.
And we’re still smiling.
All three of them pile into a single seat and pour over pictures. Do you remember? Do you remember? Giggles and sighs. It is a happy book. Happy and good.
And I wonder who else will hold this book someday. If my children's children will laugh at their parents’ shenanigans or see their own likeness in our faces. I wonder what they will see, what they will notice. If they will smile at us smiling at them.
It is a magical thing for a physical object to become the home for memories that until then live only inside of you.
Give permanence to what matters.
Look back often.
About the Author
Lifestyle photographer & homeschool mama of three, Heather Hall left small-town life with her family last year for her grandparent’s farm in the country. Nourished by freedom and fresh air, simple and slow, they roll up their sleeves to plant the seeds that make it feel like home. When she's not harvesting elderberries or flowers to share, she finds magic in the little things: iced espresso, living books, writing letters, and an open door. You can follow along with her adventures on Heather's blog, Kindred Story.