Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mental Pictures

Yesterday, I escaped to my quiet temple of thought (the bathtub) while Papa T napped with Eddy. Making the water as hot as I can tolerate is a treat after taking tepid baths while the babe was still in the belly. It allows me to stay in for longer before the water cools. Maybe it's the steam rising off the surface, maybe it's dunking my head under so that all I hear is my own breathing, maybe it's just being the only person in the tiny room. It has become the perfect breeding ground for thoughts.

While in the bath, I realized that I have been storing memories in my mind lately like photographs, constantly seeing moments that need to be snapped. Pillow-like feet, chubby arms, perfectly round knees, eyebrows furrowed with determination. I feel a must do urge to capture all of this.

Like buttah.
Since he was born, Eddy has had the most amazing sneezes. These sneezes required quite a wind-up - the mouth flapped like Pac-Man's and the sound was something out of a 1950s cartoon. And he sneezed all the time. It was a like his body was just learning about all of these amazing functions it was capable of and constantly needed to practice. To make matters cuter, he frequently had what we call "The Lost Sneeze" - a giant overture that ultimately just petered out with a little "hoooo". I was determined to capture the entire performance on video. I would camp out beside him on the floor with a video camera in hand but I just kept coming up with lots of footage of him staring and smiling. Cute, yes. Sneezes, no.  He still sneezes but they just aren't quite the same as those newborn sneezes. I didn't ever capture one on video. Last night in the bath, this thought made me sad.

And then I started thinking about all of these digital images we have already acquired. Eddy has a multitude of pictures from everyday of his life. I know that all first time parents become addicted to preserving these moments and images like I have.

Fuzzy baby parts captured with an iPhone while nursing.
But what happens when one gets away?

Does it mean that the memory is gone? Have our brains become too lazy to hold onto memories on their own?

My parents' generation didn't have the luxury of digital documenting. They captured images on - remember this? - film. You couldn't see your images immediately so you just had to wait until the roll was developed to see if the precious memory had made the cut. And only cameras took pictures. No iPhones. No webcams. Video cameras were too comically enormous to toss in the diaper bag.

So do my parents have less memories of me than I will have of Eddy? Maybe. But I think probably not. I think that they are experts at holding onto mental pictures.

My mom has shoe boxes upon shoe boxes of pictures in her closet. They have made every move with her over decades. There is no conventional organization, no chronology.  But man are they fun to dig through. The result of having to develop the whole roll was that there was one, maybe two good pictures and dozens of outtakes. Awkward smiles, bad hair on Christmas morning, really bad outfits that were actually worn on purpose. Those pictures don't get developed anymore. If a picture is taken from a weird angle or your brother has his eyes closed you just don't develop it.

A few years ago I killed our laptop. I came home from work on a Friday, sat down on the couch with a Dr. Pepper and started searching for who knows what on the internet. Now, we rarely have soda in our house and I don't generally drink Dr. Pepper unless I'm having a hamburger and French fries. But, as the story goes, I absentmindedly knocked the soda over and learned how you fry a hard drive. We tried everything we could to save it. We took it to a computer repair shop, we sent our hard drive away to the supposed experts but it was too far gone. We would have to pay thousands of dollars to recover anything. So there went the pictures of our early days as boyfriend and girlfriend. There went the pictures of fat-bellied baby Lucy. There went the pictures of us moving into our first house. Thankfully I do get a lot of pictures developed so we have a few hard copies of those memories but I lost thousands of pictures that day not to mention thousands of songs. I was sick about it for a long time but I got to a point where I just had to shrug my shoulders and say, "That sucked but oh well." I remember how Lucy felt when she was a puppy. I remember how excited we were to hold our keys after signing the all of that paperwork. I remember what it was like to fall in love with Tim. I learned the hard way to cling to those memories for dear life. I refuse to ever let them go.

Baby Lucy. The sweetest girl I ever did see.

So Eddy may have exponentially more baby pictures than I have of myself but in the end, what's more fun to dig through - a shoe box or a hard drive? I vote for the shoebox.

I will make it a point to develop and develop and develop pictures, even outtakes. But when a memory sneaks by without the sound of a shutter to capture it, I will stop and make sure that I create a mental picture. I have a feeling that those make sweeter memories decades from now. I play the newborn sneeze "video" over in my brain everyday. That's my preservation plan.

Post a Comment

You look really pretty today.

Thanks for your comment! Sorry for the robot question -- too much spam.