Updated: Aug 24, 2019
Buckle up people, and maybe grab a box of tissues. We're going to get a little raw and travel down memory lane, my memory lane to be exact, as I try to impress upon you how important it is to #printyourphotos and not leave them locked in #digitallimbo forever.
My grandfather on my mum's side, "Grandpa," was hugely important to me. He was the number one supporter of my creativity and would always play his clarinet or saxophone while I played the piano. He beat cancer and died of a heart attack doing what he loved, working his farm in Chester NH, a week after I moved to Connecticut when I was in the seventh grade. I didn't cry when I learned he had died, but I do cry a lot now when I think about him being gone and it's hard to write this about him.
For the longest time, I only had one photo of me with my Grandpa. This one, that I still carry around with me in my wallet. I knew there were other photos of us together, but this was the only one that I had. By the way, this is Grandpa in his "uniform;" a Pinkerton Academy hat and sweatshirt. That was the high school that he taught at, coached at and continued to volunteer at after his retirement. He was a well known figure at that school and in Derry and some of the school fields are dedicated in his honor.
After I moved back to New England a few years ago, my grandmother ("Grammie") gave me an album of all the photos she had with me in them. So I now have 22 additional photos with my Grandpa. This one is still my favorite, though.
Of all the new photos with him, most of them are family portrait style at important family functions, like my birth and christening, or birthdays. But these two stand out as being treasured because they represent who my Grandpa was and the relationship we had together (btw, that's me with the horrible bowl cut in the pink pants, yay for the 90s):
My Grandpa was a farmer in his retirement. He had about 20 acres of land that he used to raise a small beef cattle herd and grow corn to feed them. My sister and I used to help him grow and harvest the corn, feed the cows, muck out the barn and all sorts of assorted farm chores. And I really miss him and the work we used to do together. Having these photos brings back all the really big memories of a whole other life I used to have.
So far as I know, I am the keeper of the only two childhood photos of my father my family has.
They're in rough shape, I know. I've had them since I was in high school and I wasn't up to date on archival practices back then. My dad is the baby in the family photo on the left, which is also the only photo of I have of my grandmother on his side, whom I have never met or talked to, ever. The other is one of my dad's primary school photos but his parents weren't sure of the date. I love these pictures. I love that my dad as a baby looks like an old man (and now that he's an old man he looks quite young, the lucky bastard), and I love that his school picture as a young kid helps me see all the ways that we're similar. More importantly, it matters to me that I can see some vestige of caring in my Grandmother Thurgood. All my life I heard about what an unfeeling woman she was, but here I have proof that maybe that wasn't entirely true. I'll never get to know for sure because she died several years ago from Alzheimer's and she and we could never work it out for us to be able to meet. That probably sounds really strange, but my father's parents lived in England, so arranging a meeting wasn't exactly simple. Even phone calls were few and far between, and only with my father.
I did get to meet my grandfather, or as I came to know him, "Grandad," when I was in my early twenties. A few years after Grandmother Thurgood had passed, he came to the States a few times to see us. I know there were a few photos taken on the different occasions, but the only ones I have are these two taken from his first visit, which were given to me in that same album from my Grammie.
I both love and hate these photos. I love them because they're the only ones I have. But I hate them because they're the only ones I have. People, DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME. I don't have a lot of regrets but this is definitely one of them. I didn't take advantage of the short time I had with my Grandad, I knew him for only about 6 years. I don't even have a photo of me and him and my dad. This photo of me and him with my mom makes no sense to me - my mom is not his child! I didn't call him more, I didn't scrape together enough money to go see him in England. I didn't take more photos of him and I when we were staying together in New Hampshire, which was the last time I saw him before he passed away of cancer.
THE REAL KICKER: I DON'T HAVE THE ORIGINAL DIGITAL FILES. My Grammie maybe does somewhere still if I'm lucky. These two photos are literally the only photos I have of the Grandad I knew. I could never make another decent quality print if I wanted to, and I could never try to edit them to improve their quality if I wanted to because all I have are these 2x3 inch, 150dpi, printed on printer paper by a desktop inkjet printer photos.
Print Your Photos. Your loved ones really care about having these memories from you. Some of these photos I've shared are from before the digital age and the negatives are gone. They can never be recreated, making these prints more valuable than ever. But just because we live in the digital age doesn't mean the prints are any less precious. Digital files can corrupt over time, making them inaccessible. And if all your memories are preserved only digitally, how will they be passed on? And more importantly, are you relying on a social media algorithm to recall your memories for you? What happens when that algorithm decides memories after a certain point aren't worth resharing or that platform altogether vanishes?
This is why printing your photos and framing them on the wall or creating an album is so important.
So, what are you doing to preserve your memories outside the pixel?