Confessions Of A Memory Keeper

And I was born. Or so I have been told. I am not one hundred percent certain this actually happened. I can only rely on a piece of paper stating that before that certain date on that piece of paper, I was nowhere and nothing. Birth photos had not yet come into fashion at the time. My mother claims to be the strongest eyewitness to my birth, but sometimes I probe her for details and a certain fogginess sets in on her features. The eyebrows furrow, the mouth retreats into a straight line, and the eyes glance around furtively. I have seen that look before. It is a look that also comes right after I ask her what she had for lunch.

For most of my adult life, I made the mistake of relying on photographs to provide concrete proof of my existence and to serve as the treasury of often quickly forgotten moments. Until I had children. 

“Why do you take so many photos?,” my 8-year-old once asked innocently when we were browsing our photo albums. 

“Because I want to remember everything that happened and also so I know that I was there,” I said to him solemnly. 

With all the conviction only an 8-year-old (who has survived losing multiple teeth and having to deal with being bossed around by a younger brother and sister) could muster, he shot back indignantly, “How can you remember everything about that time through a single photo? That’s impossible! Anyway, you don’t need a photo to know you were there.” 

This exchange shook me to my core. How does a photograph, no matter how detailed, capture the infinite expressions, emotions, and thoughts that are flowing in the minutest moments of our lives least of all provide proof that we were even in existence in those moments? He was absolutely right. 

I love photography. The camera found me in the flowering stages of my life, my college years and, despite the occasional relationship ups and downs (sometimes it did weigh me down), it has since rarely left my side. I am not a photographer though. I am just as happy fondling my phone as I am my big-girl camera. There has been no intense studies of the art on my part, no heavy technical understanding. I simply push the button and click. I am a picture-taker. And do I take a lot of them! 

I had been relying on this art to store my most beloved, most cherished memories. And yet, in doing so, as my son had pointed out, I had missed the most crucial, most fundamental, most valuable aspects of the art of remembering. I had failed to keep the memories that lie right outside of the perfectly squared edges. 

So I started over again. Re-born into the old and ancient ways of doing things – of just being – before the complexities of holding a computer in the palm of my hand left me further wondering about my existence. I want my children to know I am here. I put the camera and the phone down. I became, instead, a memory keeper. I take the time to appreciate the NOW that I am in and drink it all in, pour every last drop of myself into the present so that every part of my being has no other choice than to affirm – YOU. ARE. HERE!

Make no mistake, I still take photos. But the most beautiful, most heartfelt, most precious moments of my life are nowhere to be found in a photo album. Those jewels of my life glimmer in my children’s wide, open, loving smiles. Treasures that keep multiplying, watching them reach milestones, with the spiraling layers of time. 

I am absolutely certain of things now, when they happen to me. I do not need to be told.

The boys spent all summer by the pool?

There’s a memory for that. 

Baby sister started singing her ABC’s?

There’s a memory for that.

The tooth fairy came?

There’s a memory for that. 

Keep on keepin’ on as the song goes.

There’s a memory for that.

And, to bolster the case for my existence, as I write this, there is an even newer memory being born.

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