We were at the zoo. It was pushing 80 during a record-breaking heatwave in Alaska. The house has no air conditioning, the kids were going crazy, and the zoo had popcorn, pokestops, two pokemon gyms, and some new cygnets that have grown a lot this week. So we went… chilling by the polar bear (who was on his hind legs nibbling at some berry bushes), and watching the river otters chase blocks of ice with frozen food in them.
And I was taking pictures as I talked with my kids.
A kindly person touched my arm. “Put the camera down,” they said. “You need to be in the moment. The memories are worth more.”
They walked away and I was left in silence. What they didn’t know is that I know the memories of that day will fade fast. I’m turning 34 next month and my memory has been getting worse for the past decade.
It’s mostly (I think) due to the depression (which is under control – yay!) and the chronic migraines (which were under control but aren’t any more). There are whole years I don’t remember. Like 2012… my fourth child was born, her internet nickname is Bunny, and I had severe postpartum and anemia. I don’t remember that year or much of 2013. I can’t tell you when she crawled, or cut her first tooth, or took her first step. I don’t remember a single developmental milestone or whether she stayed on the growth chart. I don’t remember anything of that year. I do have photos, and the kids will tell me. I might have a journal somewhere with the details. But it was a rough year.
It was 2014 before the anemia was addressed to the point where I could function and not fall asleep because of the lack of iron. Two whole years of lost memories and spotty recollection.
The anemia is under control, but my memory is still not what it was. I used to be able to remember names and facts with one mention. I can’t. Maybe too much of my brain is used up, maybe I’m just confusing things, maybe I’m just too old. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but I have a solution.
I take pictures.
Almost every day I’ll snap a photo of the kids. Of them playing, cooking, laughing, dancing, playing piano, going to gymnastics, going to school. I have pictures of them climbing glaciers and watching whales. I take pictures all the time because then, on the days where my memory falters, I can flip through them.
I don’t always remember the day. But I’m good at picking up the background clues. The length of their hair, the background walls, the people with us… I know the state we were at. I can guess the rest. And the kids remember.
So, no, I won’t put down my camera. I won’t just “be in the moment” because of some mistaken belief that the memories will always be there. Because I know that isn’t true.
People hate me and my Millennial ways. They can hate my phone snapping a hundred pictures of my kids standing by the fluffy baby swans. They can rage. I’ll take my pictures anyway. Because these days are worth remembering.