As a baby, I had black hair, a fair complexion, and perpetually bright pink cheeks. I was the first child and my father loved to show me off. When he didn’t have me with him, he always had a stack of Polariods to show people he ran into. My aunt (who had four children by this time and had grown past the thrill-of-the-first-baby stage) used to joke that my bright red cheeks were the result of flash burn from the camera’s flash constantly going off in my face.
When I had my first child, my biggest concern with “items to prepare for arrival” was the quality of camera I had to document his first moments. It’s important to note that his birth pre-dated the wide–spread use of digital cameras, so his first moments (and first couple of years) were captured with a film camera. I remember taking rolls of photographs the first day of his birth and sending my mother to the one-hour photo lab immediately to see my son’s first pictures that night.
I tried to capture every moment, and ended up with hundreds of photographs and stacks and stacks of sets of prints. Back then, carrying a camera wasn’t as second nature as how we carry our camera phones now. Countless times I would have to freeze a moment in my mind and hope that the memory would persevere through time and age.
Now, having had my daughter 10 years later, the moments when I do not have a way to take her picture are nearly non-existent. My phone was selected specifically as a replacement for carrying around a separate camera and it has nearly limitless storage capacity (I can say this as I scroll through over 3,000 images).
I have struggled with which moments to capture with a lens and which to freeze-frame mentally. It’s a tough choice at times. Trying to capture the perfect picture of the moment can override the joy of living in the moment. Other times, capturing a moment that would otherwise be a mundane memory brings back amazing memories years later.
My son is the ham; my daughter tends to refuse to be photographed. However, she loves to see the pictures of herself later on (I’m obviously trying to get her to make the connection between having her picture taken and seeing a playback of the day). I’ve gotten used to yelling ridiculous things at her, such as, “Where’s the monkey on my head?” Countless pictures now involve her pointing slightly above camera with an incredulous expression.
Overall, constantly capturing moments takes priority. I know the value of a photograph looking back on the ones from my own childhood, my son’s childhood, and now my daughter’s. I love seeing how I changed, how my son has changed, how my daughter will change. But I still hold onto a few memories in my mind’s eye that are as clear as any photograph. Do I wish I had captured those moments? At times, I do wish I could have, but, overall maybe I value the memories more because I had to be fully present in the moment. I had to work at capturing the image and preserving it forever.