Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Shoe Box Memories

Do you remember back in the olden days when photographs were stored in shoe boxes in the closet? It was a great system for chronicling family history. Someone would take a few snapshots at various family events, and then after you got the film developed (oftentimes years later), you’d flip through the prints to make sure some of them were not completely blurry, and then you’d put them in the shoe box.
Whenever a family member passed away, you could run to the shoe box, select a bunch of photos, and quickly make a nice poster board of the dearly departed’s life, to be displayed at the wake.

Nowadays, it’s completely different. Photos are digital, and they are not stored in a single, central location, like the hall closet. Photographs now are stored all over the place: on various people’s phones; on multiple computer hard drives, including some old computers that don’t work anymore; on various cloud storage services, like Google Photos; and all over social media sites, such as Satan’s Book, er, I mean, Facebook, and Instagram. So, when a loved one passes away now, you need Gibbs and his entire NCIS crew to scour the internet looking for appropriate pictures. If enough digital photos are located and downloaded, someone, usually the smartest teenager in the family, is given the task of creating a slide show, which has replaced the snapshot-filled poster board at funeral homes.

This task is made more difficult because the sheer number of photos taken these days is slightly more than in the olden days. I am using, of course, the definition of the phrase “slightly more” that means: “seventy-six billion times more.”
I won’t be surprised if I see this comment in a person’s obituary: “A memorial service will be held next summer, because it will take that long to sift through all the photos.”

Even though there has been a complete revolution in photographic technology during the past couple of decades, two things still have not changed. First, whenever people look at photos, the first thing they do is look for themselves in the pictures. C’mon, don’t deny it. Everyone is instantly drawn to themselves in photographs. And I don’t mean just narcissistic social media addicts. Everyone checks themselves out when looking at photos. A couple of months ago, one of my nieces got married, and afterward I saw a really nice photo of the bride and groom walking down the aisle at the end of the ceremony. They looked great, but I quickly noticed that about 30 feet behind them in the background, very blurry, was me. And the first thing that popped into my head was, “Wow, is my hair really THAT thin on top?”

Which brings us to the second thing about photography that has not changed, despite advances in technology. When people look at recent photos of themselves, they usually say something like, “Gee, I look lousy.” Followed by specific comments, such as, “Are my eyes really that baggy?” or, “My teeth used to be white,” or, “Was this taken with a wide-angle lens? I’m not that chubby, am I?”

When we view recently taken photos, we cringe at how we look. But here’s the thing that never changes: if we happen to see that exact same photo three or four years later, we always say, “Wow, I looked great back then. I wish I looked that good now.”
I think one of the nicest things we can do for our family members is to dig through all of our photos and prepare our own slide show in advance. That way, when our time comes, the wake won’t have to be delayed for nine months.

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