I laugh sometimes when I see how many pictures are posted each day on Facebook. It seems as though we all have cameras in hand 24/7. We take pictures of our children, pets, food, purchases, and adventures. We photograph our loves and losses, our triumphs and tragedies, often without editing or enhancing. I can tell you now that most people will treasure this photo diary as their memory fails and the events of their life begin to blend together in a hazy dream of indistinguishable events. You don’t have to have dementia to struggle with recall after more than sixty years of living. So when I tell you that photos are often my only clue to past events, don’t mock me…you’ll have the same problem very soon.
I ran across a photo recently that took me by surprise. At first I didn’t remember anything about it. Then I noticed what I was wearing and I paid attention to a few things in the background. Finally the place and the occasion began to surface in my little memory bank. You know we don’t really forget anything, we just forget how to retrieve it! Photos help trigger bits and pieces of memory and make sense of them. I was very happy to relive that special moment from my past, especially since several of the people in it are now dead.
Of course “selfies” are the photo craze of the moment. Apparently your face in front of whatever tourist spot you are visiting or restaurant where you are eating or concert you are attending makes it “official” that you were actually there. I get that. However, in later years I think the selfie might seem a little less important than a few more pictures of where you were or who you were with. Just keep that in mind. And I can tell you with conviction that some of my favorite photos are of ordinary, daily events. Family group shots are good, and any photo that includes a new baby is a keeper!
I wish now that I had a photo of every person I’ve ever known. Unfortunately there are some wonderful people who live only in my flawed memory. I remember the kindness of my mother’s best friend, but I can’t even begin to recall what she looked like. I can’t remember my best friend’s parents, even though I was in their house at least once a week. Not vitally important, but a missing piece in the puzzle of my childhood story.
So, we can laugh a little, but the proliferation of photos on Facebook is really beneficial. Just make sure that while you are taking all those photos, you are doing something worth remembering someday.