This I Believe

Shaina - Hampden, Maine
Entered on May 2, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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I’ve always been mesmerized by photographs. Past, present, colorful, dark, familiar faces, unknown faces, give me a photograph and I’d love to read the story. “A picture is worth a thousand words”, a familiar phrase to many, and one that I completely agree to. A photograph doesn’t just tell it’s viewer about itself, but it literally shows itself to the viewer. Allowing the viewer to see the picture in all its strength, and quite possibly, its weaknesses. Photographs are plastered upon my closet doors, upon my mirrors, upon the door to my room itself, they’re everywhere. Reminding me of times from before, moments that I now have taped to my walls. It’s a moment in time captured by the click of a button. Instantly, that moment is frozen, kept still and safe until wanted. No more worries about forgetting that specific memory somewhere in the near future, you have it safe and tucked away, able to pull it out and relive the moment at any given time. A photograph shows us the laughter and giggles of one of those late night sleepovers or the solemn, dark days of a rain-drenched war. It introduces a young child to their unknown parents or visualizes a setting of a foreign land. Pictures give its viewer a first hand glance into a moment of that memory, even if they were never there. Portals of tucked away memories lie in their stillness, always available to be taken out and recaptured.

It’s these photographs that I describe on and on so much about and claim they show us memories of times before, that I look to and wonder about life. About how long it seems, and yet how we count the days, the months, the years and realize, it’s not that long at all. We see the snapshots of a person’s life, collected over time, revealing glimpses into an individuals years. Has that person lived? Has that person truly lived a life worth living, one filled with journeys and travels and experiences worthwhile? Have they lived life to it’s absolute fullest?(as the common saying goes). This is why I believe living life should be just that. You need to live, to experience, to journey out and venture into the unknown. To be sure that your life is one, most definitely, worth living. Photographs enable us to relive our moments in life, as evidence and testimony to its worthiness.

I think to my grandfather, my Zayde, and wonder about his life. The later part taken away by a severe case of Alzheimer’s disease. I look at the picture of my three year old self, with my brown-black eyes and eternal smile, sitting in my Zayde’s lap, giggling at him with his own eyes looking through those 50’s style brown rimmed glasses. I smile when I’m reminded of those memories, the memories of my early childhood that without those photographs, I would be without. The most recent memories of my Zayde that I own, are the ones largely filled with his forgetfulness and time spent in his hospital room. Having my parents tell me to go say goodbye to Zayde and shutting the honey colored hospital door shut for the final time. Being pulled out of my sixth grade study hall, clarinet in hand, and crying in the hall as my mom tells me Zayde has passed away. It’s these depressing, sad moments in my memories that although I will never wish for them to depart, fill my mind as it’s most recent memories of the scene. But I’m able to look at the boxes of pictures I have stored away, full of snapshots, both young and old, of my grandfather and am able to reassure myself he had a good eight-three years. He did live his life in the most worthwhile way he possibly could have.

I’m reminded yet again of the importance of living life to its point of capacity when I go to visit my great-aunt at her nursing home. I see my Tante with her white hair, glasses and timeless trademark pearls, sitting in her wheelchair, smiling as though nothing is wrong when she talks of her day at the office with her Mother. She too, has been taken over by Alzheimer’s. She tells us more about her day with her Mother and what Mother and her did, but keep in mind that “Mother” hasn’t been alive for over forty years. I smile and nod in response to her story, thinking this was the elegant woman in the yellowing picture, who stood on the cliffs in her long, beaver fur jacket and smiled with her bright red lipstick as the wind danced through her hair. The picture allows me to see just one of those moments held with special remembrance in the life of a woman who’s initials spelled out B-A-D.

These are just two examples of how photographs are proof of a life spent worth living. I believe in a daily mantra of believing in living a life worth living. Of doing whatever you can to be sure, you fulfill that duty that all living individuals have. Photographs show us the evidence of these accomplishments, to recognize the shortness of life and to allow us to be fully aware that a life must be lived to it’s extreme.