Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday! Today’s look into the little things – which really are the big things – comes to us my new friend over the portals of the internet, Holly. Her words truly capture the essence of the Ordinary Everyday, and powerfully give us the reminder to not forget that which is so easily forgotten. Enjoy.
My screen goes blank. An unnerving silence takes over. A file icon with a question mark appears, as if it’s asking me what to do.
We had been expecting this for months, but pretending like it could never really happen. We knew the evidence of our most precious memories were in the hands of an eight year old hard drive: our machine’s aging heart. But life was whizzing by, and backing up thousands of photos and videos never made it on to the calendar.
I stared at the machine, taking a few minutes to process that the icon really was questioning me: “What are you going to do now?”
The things that hold our memories have a funny way about them. They are what we name when we are asked to list what few items we would collect before running out of our burning house. We passionately name them as if we can’t imagine living one day without them. But we race through most of our days without even thinking about them.
Until we lose them. Then, we can’t stop thinking about them.
Desperate thoughts flip-flopped with reassuring self-talk. Would my daughters know who they were without images of their first years? What can a machine-heart hold that my heart can’t? Without photos to spark my memory, what would I forget? If I don’t even think about these photos most day, what could be the problem with living without them?
I wondered if what I think of when I recall my daughters as babies or our African trip of a lifetime would be enough. I wondered if how my heart and mind come together to create a memory was real. I wondered if reality needs proof, the stuff of that machine-heart.
After more than a week of living without the stuff we think we can’t live without, I still had no answer to that icon’s question. What was I going to do?
I tried listing what images I would miss the most: newborn pictures, videos of first steps and vacation photos. And as I tried to remember the contents of our iPhoto library, I remembered that we had a few memory cards from our pre-smart-phone days.
As I reviewed photos that I thought I would never see again, a surprising thing happened: the images that made my heart skip a beat were not the ones I thought they would be.
Being reunited with our collection of newborn photos and vacation videos did not bring me the relief I thought it would. Only a couple of unassuming pictures did: one of my oldest daughter smiling at seven months old, with her bright eyes and doll-like face that were so different then but held the same happiness that she embodies now as a seven year old. And a photo of my youngest daughter when she was just a few months old with her baby eyes just starting to look like her, her full cheeks framing her signature smile, brought me that same sense of relief.
Both of the pictures were taken at home, on normal days. And these are the images that made my heart skip a beat but that I couldn’t recall on my own.
And so I learned that the moments that I thought I had capture on camera as I was living them were actually the easiest to remember: what we did and where we went, milestones and vacations, birthdays and holidays.
But the moments I didn’t even know I was capturing as I was living them? The eyes and smiles of the normal days – these are what I would have forgotten.
And now I know that these are what I most want to remember.
And so I wonder if the stuff we are most afraid of forgetting is actually the easiest to remember.
And if what we should be most afraid of forgetting is the stuff that happens in between – the natural expressions on normal days that so perfectly create the essence of who someone is, the images that capture how we think of someone, but not how they look today.
I think I have some answers to my computer’s question, “What are you going to do now?”
I am going to pay more attention to the stuff that happens in between. I am going to remember that this is actually what my heart longs to remember.
And, I am going to print those few magical pictures of the everyday.
Because these are what I will take if I ever have to run out of my burning house.
Holly Pennington lives in the Seattle area where she loves ferries, Pike Place Market, hot tea and running in the rain. She recently quit her job as a healthcare executive (read more about that here) to follow her heart’s desire to be more present as a mother and try life as a writer and entrepreneur. She blogs at Dreadlocks and Goldilocks. I know I’m going to get off the laptop, and stare at my babies now …because I don’t want to forget those normal, everyday moments. How about you? Encourage our friend with your words in the comment section below!0