For many years I have hauled around boxes of guilt. They multiplied over time and were stuffed away, out of sight but never completely out of mind. The boxes were labeled PHOTOS but guilt is what they held for me, year after procrastinating year.
I made halfhearted attempts now and then to tame the snapshot beast but it felt insurmountable. Remember 20 years ago, when so many people were into scrapbooking? They bought cute stickers and spent every Saturday in a Michael’s classroom putting together fussy pages of family photos? I made fun of those people. Now I’m jealous.
So I decided that, now that I’m sort of retired, I would block out a full month and see what I could accomplish, with the ultimate goal of whittling this paper monster down to 1,000 photos and then getting them digitized (whatever THAT might mean.)
Getting started was hard. Just pulling out all those boxes of photos jumbled together, no names or dates on most of them, increases my heart rate even now just thinking of it. But I did it. I dedicated some space and time for this media mess. My better half hinted this could be done in short bursts – “just 15 minutes a day” – so I threw him off the project. That was day one.
I needed some way of dividing up the behemoth to better manage it. Remember the old adage that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time? Figuring out the size of my bites was where I was on day two.
I thought I’d divide them into 5-year periods but that didn’t work out very well because my children are 3 years apart. So, instead, I began by pulling out all the photos of my family from before I met my husband. This I called “Shore Ancient History” and then I did another set like that for the Smiths.
Next, I gathered the photos from the time we met until just before I was expecting our first child. This was a big chunk as we were married at 19 and had our daughter at age 30. After that, I kept with 3-year intervals for the time we raised our children. People with kids take a LOT of pictures.
Then it was a matter of spending hours placing photos into the right boxes. I made the mistake of sitting on the floor for one session, forgetting that I am now over 60. My body exacted revenge for 3 days.
I encountered a few surprises along this journey. One was my father-in-law, a quiet man who always seemed to either be pondering serious matters or silently judging the rest of us. But the photos of Karl with his grandchildren showed a fellow with pure joy on his face. Memory sometimes lies but pictures do not.
In looking through photos of myself I was struck by all the times I’d changed my hairstyle. It’s been short, long, curly, straight and more than a few shots had me shaking my head. What on earth had I been thinking?
The saddest thing is that most of these photos have no information on them, especially disconcerting with the older pictures. In some cases I don’t even know who I’m looking at. If you can label your photos, even if you do nothing else with them, you’ll be way ahead of me.
Sorting has taken much longer than I expected. I went through once to divide into time periods, a second time to get rid of duplicates, a third session to try to keep only the very best and I told myself I was half finished EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I still need to choose the winners (we’re currently at 2,116.) Maybe THIS is the halfway point? Please say it is.
The next step will be to figure out what to do with them. Turns out there are a lot of options out there. I can get a box from a company and send the photos off to be put into a digital file (or to be lost in the mail!) I could purchase a scanner and do the work myself if I had any tech savvy at all. (True confession: my husband and son do all the work of getting my words to your screen.) There are phone apps and local stores that have public scanners and at least one company that will rent you a machine.
I’m still not nearly to the point of choosing the shots I’ll use and as I look back on Cindy from a month ago, I roll my eyes. Naïve, silly woman thought she was nearly finished when she got the photos sorted by date. I guess Paul Simon was right: “The nearer your destination the more you’re slip-sliding away.”