Friday, March 13, 2009

Creative Memories

I am a failed member of the church of Creative Memories. I tried to be faithful and good. I bought the archival paper, a circle cutter and photo splits. I vowed to cull out the imperfect pictures and to embrace cropping, but now it is time to confess. My pictures are not perfect, nor cropped; they are completely out of chronological order and I store them in old shoe boxes. Moreover, I intend to keep it that way.

When I pour a box of photographs out upon the dining room table, my family is drawn in. My sons search for pictures of themselves, but along the way they find photographs of the great- grandparents they never knew. They discover younger versions of the parents who sit at the table with them. They ask questions. They know they can just nibble for a while or they can sit down and feast. A scrapbook would change this circle of people into a crooked line, captive, waiting for the turn of the page.

The picture of my sixth birthday party features me and my cake, but in the background I also see our battered Chinese checkers set, the “Tom and Jerry” cartoon drinking glass I loved, my father’s hat with the seed corn logo. These small details are themselves vehicles to more memories. If I crop the picture of my son at his birthday party to feature only him, I excise the pair of skate shoes, the Lego Monster, the gouge in the coffee table caused by the tricycle. Who am I to cut out there details of his life that may transport him on his own journeys?

The finger you push the shutter button is the same one you use to summon someone. With the click of the shutter we say, “You. Come here. You’re the one I want.” And all those pictures on the table—that’s what we got when we summoned. Imperfect, off-center, they came to us as they were. Pictures of Aunt Marge are almost always blurry; Grandpa is always squinting. Would these imperfect pictures make it on to the pages of a carefully crafted scrapbook?

One time at my son’s swim lessons, I sat next to a true believer. She was producing four identical books, one for each of her children. She had brought some squares of brightly colored paper with her, and she hunched over her work, carefully producing perfect corners on her pictures. As she sat, head down, painstakingly measuring her work, her daughter prepared for her first dive ever from the diving board. I watched as the girl stood, thin and wet in her swimsuit, shivering in the afternoon air, biting her lip and staring at the glass-like surface below. Finally, she summoned up her courage and and held breath as she plunged headlong into the clear blue water. 

It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.

It was one of a kind.


Susan said...

I love this entry! My pictures are staying in shoe boxes, too, and you have the reason for that rendered perfectly here! Thank you, Betty!

Bossy Betty said...

Thank you, Darling!