Recently, I heard a saying that has really made me think. “We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.” The thing about that thought that struck me the most, was when I considered moments otherwise gone…forever. I have always loved photography. From the time I was a little girl and received my first camera, I was hooked. There were years I wasn’t so good about taking pictures, and mistakes I made, such as not including people in my photos enough, not writing down the names of people and the locations, and the biggest one in my mind, not being in the pictures enough. So many people these day take selfies, and then there are the selfies that are ridiculed because “the person takes too many selfies.” I suppose that can be an issue, but when you think about it, they will always have that moment, and if that selfie made them look and feel especially pretty or handsome, so much the better. It is a moment, frozen in time…a memory that will always be with them.
When I look back at the funerals of my parents and my father-in-law, and the slide shows we did for them, I found myself amazed that I was having trouble locating pictures of me with them…particularly with my dad. It was a strange thing for me to realize that, until I thought about how much time I spent behind the camera and not in front of it. Since that time, I have made sure to take those pictures of my mom and me, my father-in-law, and me, and my mother-in-law and me, because I want to have those return tickets to those precious moments of the past. It’s not just about the slide show either, although that is a permanent memory of their lives, but it’s about the time spent with them. In his last two years, my dad and I spent many hours together, while I was one of his caregivers. I got to enjoy his wonderful sense of humor, as we teased each other every day. In my memory files, I can see him pretending to be asleep when I came in. Then, I would softly flick his hand, and he would accuse me of hitting him, saying, “Oh!! You struck me!” Then we would both laugh about it, because we knew that in a million years, that would never have happened. We pretended to argue, as I dressed his wounds, and helped him get dressed. Then I would step out while he finished the process, and he would come out into the living room. Whenever I am in their house, I can see those moments as vividly as if they were still there. Still, there are many moments that aren’t quite as clear, and a picture would tell the story so well. And now that it is too late to take them, I really wish I had some of those moments in pictures.
There are countless people who tell me how much they hate having their picture taken. I find that really sad, because it isn’t about them. They are denying others the right to have a return ticket to those precious moments. So few people think about it that way…until the day when they really wish they had a picture of them with someone special. That’s when it finally hits them. Pictures aren’t just something silly to post of Facebook. They are memories. They are return tickets to a moment otherwise gone. I think I’ve improved on those return tickets quite a bit, and for that, I am happy.
I remember getting my first camera. I was probably 6 years old at the time. Once I got it, I was almost never without it. I can’t say that I took the greatest pictures in those days, but what I can say is that I was often behind the camera rather than in the pictures. That had its good and bad points to it. The good thing was that I took pictures of the things that held an interest to me. The bad part was that often, I wasn’t in the pictures. I had never really given much thought to that until we began looking for pictures to use in the slide show for my dad’s funeral. It was hard to find some of me with my dad. I felt quite sorry about that. in the end, we found enough pictures, but I started thinking about the years ahead. I knew that I needed to do something different.
Being a photographer is a wonderful thing, and I will always love to be a photographer, but I have learned that the photographer sometimes has to relinquish the camera and be in the picture. If you never do that, it’s hard for anyone to know that you belong to the group being photographed. While that isn’t always a problem, there are times in life when it is a problem…such as the time I mentioned before. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is great fun to be the photographer. When I see the pictures taken by other photographers, I get great ideas for shots I want to take myself. Of course, there are just pictures that happen, and no planning could make them any better than the shot you got almost by accident. Personally, I love taking wildlife pictures, with birds in flight being at the top of my list. Those are among the most difficult to take. The birds are moving so fast that by the time you get the camera ready and focused, the birds are long gone. It is a type of shot that takes lots of practice, but one that is very rewarding once you succeed.
It’s strange to think that the hardest lesson for a photographer to learn can be to make sure you get in a few of the pictures yourself. You would think that would just be second nature to someone who knows the value of pictures. I’ve never felt like I am very photogenic, and maybe that is why I don’t feel such a need to be in the pictures, but after many years as an amateur photographer I realize what a folly that is. Good, bad, or ugly, I needed to be in a few of those shots.
While we were visiting many of our family members in Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota, our cousin, Bill Spencer surprised us with a copy of a slide show that he had put together for his family. We were so busy while we were there, that there was no time to take a look at the slide show. When I got home, I looked at it briefly, but nothing really in depth. Yesterday, I took another look…a longer look. I had no idea what a gold mine that slide show would turn out to be. As I watched it, I felt like I had been instantly transported back in time. It was so fun to look at those old shots of all of us as kids. It also felt just a little bit lonely when I looked at holiday pictures from the time right after we left Superior. Prior to that, we would have most likely been in some of those pictures, and I’m sure that my cousins would agree with me when I say that feels a little bit sad too.
Cheryl and Pam had always been good friends, and the younger kids naturally partnered with Bill and Jim. That could have left me feeling like a third wheel, but I got along just as well with the younger kids, so it worked out very well. The reality was that I thought the stuff the younger kids were doing was more fun most of the time anyway. Not to say that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend time with Cheryl and Pam, but I was a pretty active kid. and the rough housing that the younger kids and I did was quite appealing to me. In fact, I probably instigated much of it…if not all of it.
I was really into gymnastics, with tumbling being my favorite part of it. My sisters and I used to practice our tumbling on the front lawn, so it stood to reason that we would do that when our cousins were there too. We practiced things like cartwheels, hand springs, and touching our toes to our head…which turned out to be a little difficult for my cousin, Jimmy, try as he might. And believe me, his trying was pretty funny. I don’t know if he really thought that he could pull his legs up to his head with his hands, but believe me, you can’t do it. Either you are limber enough, or you aren’t. It’s as simple as that.
The younger kids would do their best to gang up on me, to prove their superiority…or maybe it was just the mere number of them against me, or maybe they had a little help from Aunt Doris. Whatever the case may be, sometimes I found myself out numbered. Of course, it was all in fun, and we had such a good time when they were here or we were there. Just looking at the picture of the dog pile makes me smile. All I can say, is that I’m glad I didn’t have all those kids on top of me. I would have been squished for sure!! What crazy, fun times those were.
Seeing my cousins this summer, took me back to those carefree days. Sometimes, you get used to being away from those you love, and you somehow don’t realize how much we miss those times, until we go back for a short time. Then, the memories flood back in. You talk for hours about all the old times, and you suddenly realize just how much you have missed those times. Nevertheless, time has marched on, and you can’t go back to when you were young. All you can do is try to keep the memories alive in your memory files, and pull them out once in a while so you can relive those moments. Those days are gone, but the memory lives on to remind you that those were the days, and they were great. Childhood is but a fleeting moment, but those days will always be a part of who we are.