This I Believe

Colleen - Newtown, Connecticut
Entered on May 21, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family, legacy

I believe in preserving memories through family photos. Years go by and people change, lives are reconstructed, and accidents happen; and as my memory begins to fail me, it is reassuring to know I can fall back on these old pictures to stitch my past together.

The older I get, the more I appreciate these pictures that my family had made such an effort to take. I find myself flipping through scrapbooks and sorting through dozens of shoeboxes filled with smiles and familiar faces, reminiscing on memories that I realize have been overlooked. It’s a comfort to know that although my mind cannot retain all the details of every event in the lives of my family members, the majority of them are trapped in boxes only to be rediscovered when my curious mind longs to seek after them. They all recreate a scene; my parents wedding, a lemonade stand, a family hike, an Easter egg hunt, events that would have otherwise been forgotten if it was not for a “Kodak moment” and the click of a button. These photos define who I am and help me feel connected to my past. I feel completed when I look through family photos, pieces of myself that have been tossed here and there are right in front of me and confirm my identity. That little girl surrounded by her family, so blissful and youthful, that’s me; that’s who I really am.

Sadly, I also find that the older I get, the less of an effort my family makes to preserve our memories. The production of scrapbooks has significantly declined and the family camera’s batteries have not been replaced since who knows when. Life has gotten busy and taking pictures is no longer a priority. Birthday parties have been replaced with soccer games on the weekends, camping trips have turned into an opportunity to catch up on work, and family movie nights have evolved into hanging out with friends. There is limited time to snap some shots in between the busy schedule of my family’s lives, let alone go out of our way to develop them. Besides, no one wants to take pictures anymore. They don’t “look good” that day, or refuse to smile, or just “aren’t in the mood” for a picture. No longer am I the cute, innocent, freckled-face, jack-o-lantern smile kid that I once was. The first day of school is no longer a big production, I’ve already learned how to ride a bike and have lost my first tooth, and have had my fair share of sittings on Santa Clause’s lap, what is there left to take pictures of?

Just because I’ve grown up does not mean I have outgrown preserving memories. I cherish all of the pictures in those shoeboxes and wouldn’t trade them for anything. They contain such value to me because I realize they are irreplaceable, they capture a split second in my life that I can never return to, I can only look back on. I believe in the importance of family photos; they help define me, and my memories should be preserved so that one day I can help my future generations define themselves.