The #kidswillnever hashtag that sprouted up via CTV’s Canada AM twitter page this past week was an amazing walk down memory lane. But, it was also a big eye-opener on how much things have changed over the years. We’ve all rolled our eyes and smirked when we hear our parents say “when we were young”, but we all know they’re right with their story-telling and mentions of change.
And we all know that we are starting to say the same thing to our children, too.
When I was young, we had recess, not nutrition breaks.
When I was young, we played “kick the can” with our friends and came home when the streetlights came on.
When I was young, we got to buy penny and nickel candy at the store.
When I was young, we washed our teacher’s coffee mugs for a quarter while we waited for the school bus. And we sniffed class papers with purple and aqua ink fresh from the “ditto” machines.
When I was young, we watched cartoons on Saturday morning because that’s when they were on. And we walked over to the TV to change the channel… or pushed a button on a brown box that was connected to the TV with a cord.
When I was young, we rented a VCR and movies for sleepovers and birthdays because we didn’t own our own… right away. And the big decision was VHS or Beta. Not DVD or bluray.
When I was young we could hardly wait for rolls of film to be developed and flip through photo after photo or look through those old coiled albums with magnetic pages.
Read that one again: When I was young we could hardly wait for rolls of film to be developed and flip through photo after photo or look through those old coiled albums with magnetic pages.
Today’s world of digital photography gives us the luxury of viewing photos within a second of its capture. Technology allows us to re-live a moment almost instantly, but then that same moment is often quickly, and sometimes indefinitely, stored away on a digital shelf. Many of our children aren’t looking through physical photo albums as often as they used to and most definitely not as often as we used to.
Photographs trigger a memory within a specific image, with that one image often spurring exponential growth of stories and memory recall.
That’s me; taking a little break from playing with my toy train and snooping in the kitchen drawers. I was probably only 2 years old when this picture was taken so I don’t really remember the exact moment, but looking at the image causes many other memories to spring to mind… The kitchen appliances in that house were a lovely avocado green. The bathroom fixtures were rose petal pink and the floor was carpeted. My room was at the end of the hall and my bed used to be directly under the window so I could stand up tall and look outside. My room also had flooring, not carpet, which made for easy clean-up when I was sick to my stomach after eating way too many walnuts one night (I still don’t eat them to this day). I can tell you the exact layout of the house and without closing my eyes I can even picture the newsprint-style wallpaper that adorned the recroom. The cold-cellar door at the base of the recroom stairs was an old charcoal grey barn-style door with a latch for a handle. And I remember walking up to my parents one night while they were in there tidying up because I had gum in my hair.
That’s quite a few memories from one photo. And to think my family moved out of that house before I was 6 years old makes me realize even more how strong the connection is between our life’s memories and photographs.
That’s me in the yellow booster seat, about to enjoy Christmas dinner with my mom’s family at the Farm. My grandparents moved off the Farm approximately 30 years ago but I can still remember so much about that place and my time with them. When I look at this picture, I don’t remember sneaking food before it was time to eat, but I do remember a bench just below the window and beside the fridge. I used to lie down on the bench when I wasn’t feeling well and my Grandma was working in the kitchen. She would bring me ginger ale with a bendy straw so I could stay on my side, but still have a drink. The door behind my Grandpa opened up to the woodshed where all of the outerwear and big barn boots were stored. I can picture the layout of the barn too. And playing with my cousins, riding the wagons, chasing chickens, climbing the trees in the orchard, and even watching a calf being born.
Memories are triggered by sharing stories and by viewing photographs.
This week I stood back and watched my daughter as she proudly showed her friend and her friend’s mom a photobook of images from last year’s Cottage adventures. It warmed my heart to the core to watch her flip the pages, one by one, and share the stories behind the pictures. It’s amazing to see and hear a child’s version of events and how detailed and focused their stories can be when accompanied by a photo or two.
I’ve made it a personal goal to keep expanding my family’s personal library of photobooks and walls of images because I want my children to be storytellers too. I want them to be able to combine my love of photography with their love of storytelling and use them as a way to enhance their life, and their relationships.
What I don’t want is for my children to have to boot up a computer and fight over the one desk-chair to help them re-live their memories. I don’t want them to flip through image discs and digital files, I want them to cozy up on the couch with family and friends and flip through photo albums and physical prints.
I want them to have the most detailed memories possible; in their minds and in their hands. Just like me.