Every so often, I find myself in a friendly debate about the good old days and whether the world is better now than it was when I was a kid. On the negative side, I’ll offer my thoughts on the lack of personal responsibility, the general erosion of proper grammar and punctuation and the sad state of Lucky Charms cereal, which has far fewer marshmallow bits than I remember.
But on the up side, I offer this: digital photography.
Remember how we used to take pictures of our kids? A couple of times a week I’d shoot a roll of film and then send it off in one of those mailers that came in the Sunday newspaper. Checking the mail became a high point of the day: I’d tear into the envelope and page through the glossy snapshots, hoping for one or two good ones out of a batch of dozens.
Do this twice a week for, oh, eight years, and you end up with hundreds and hundreds of photos, all of which, for me, ended up in two big plastic bins in the garage. Better mothers would never have allowed such a thing to occur; they would have lovingly edited the collection and pasted them into scrapbooks, labeling each snapshot with charming captions and smiley-face stickers.
Not me. My photos lived in the garage with the dust and the daddy long-leg spiders until last weekend, when one cup of coffee too many sent me over the edge and on a cleaning tear.
Standing on the back porch, sorting through stacks of color snapshots from 1995 to about 2002, I was face to face with my superstition about throwing away photos of people, even if the photos did not include the person’s actual head and face. There were dozens of pictures of my toddler son’s elbows and knees. And also, my feet.
Why did I keep these? And why didn’t I just give up after the second snap, when it was obvious he wasn’t going to sit still?
Imagine the money I wasted on knee photographs. It would be enough money to hire an exterminator to kill all the spiders, which, by the way, were somehow able to lift the lid of the plastic bins and colonize them.
Along with the critters, there were a lot of memories in the boxes. When Cooper was about 3 years old, we took him to the fire station to see the trucks. There are, no lie, 30 snapshots of him standing on the truck, sitting behind the wheel, standing on the back of the truck and standing in front of the truck. What were we thinking? Wouldn’t five shots have been enough?
Of course, that was back when I was never sure the photo would turn out, and so I kept snap-snap-snapping away like a paparazzi. The results were in those bins. And it was time to start tossing. As with Lucky Charms, I kept the sweet, colorful gems and rejected the rest.
Digital is better. My daughter graduated from middle school last night. After the ceremony, I used my phone to take some photos of Grace and her friends. After each one, she looked at the image and either rejected it or asked me to save. We ended up with three really good pictures. There’s no waste, and I get to keep the memory.
So, yes, the world is better now.
Beth Dolinar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.