When Kidlet was born, I would go to Wal-Mart almost every week to collect pictures I had printed. Now that I look back, I see how many duplicates I have and the excess of having so many pics of this small person where the only thing that was different from one picture to the next was the clothes he wore and the amount of drool running down his face. As he got older, the picture-taking slowed, the camera only being brought out for ‘real’ things: Disney on Ice or birthdays or the first day of school. I decided to be more discerning in the things to be kept in the archive. The physical documentation of my life and my child’s quickly changed from a heavily illustrated novel to a pamphlet.
Now that I have a fancy camera, I’m all about taking pictures of things. Pictures of every event I’d like to remember, whether it’s a sunset or a cloud pattern or something creative that Kidlet did. One time he made his own hockey rink from an empty box, complete with advertisements for Subway and Tim Horton’s on the side of the box. The hockey players were little men he created from pipe cleaners. Those things HAVE to be captured, and I have about a dozen pictures of it.
I’m not really sure what brought on the change to slow down in the first place. I think it felt kind of self-indulgent. I think I felt like when he’s 15, he’ll be embarrassed at how many pics there are of him around. It’s kind of overwhelming. For anyone who’s had at least one child knows how much hoopla a first child can bring. He’d view me as one of those crazy mothers who kept locks from first haircuts and of first teeth (which I HAVE kept, by the way). Then I thought to myself, “Who cares what he thinks?!”
Okay, let me qualify that. What I’ve learned over the years is that your past is VERY important to your present and your future present. It all speaks to the person you will become. Either you will spend your life trying to recreate the past or you will spend your life trying to avoid recreating the past or, more than likely, it will be a combination of the two. For him to grow up and not know his past, where he came from, who he once was, what he once knew, what he once liked, would be the greatest harm I can to do him as his mother. For him to look at himself as an adult and have no idea what brought him to that particular point in life would be a tragedy.
A friend of mine shared a picture of her mother at around the age my friend was now. It sent chills up my spine – they were almost identical. For some reason, that provided me with so much comfort, thinking that maybe when I’m 58, I’ll look in the mirror and see my mother’s face as I last saw it. It will prove that no matter where my life took me, I once belonged to someone – if only genetically. That’s what I want to give Kidlet.
I want him to be able to look back and see where he came from. I want him to understand the influences in his life. He might grow to like the outdoors and then he’ll see through pictures how many times we went out to the park and the forest. He might be a hockey goalie or be an engineer or architect and he’ll see his hockey rink and realize he was interested in hockey and was a talented engineer from a young age. I don’t want him to look back and think his life was all birthday parties. I want him to know all the little things too. I may not always be around, and I just want to make sure he knows who he is. I will not apologize for that.
When we held the Olympics here in Vancouver four years ago, I had taken him to many events around town, participating in a lot of the activities, even taking a day off work for us to see the goings on. I bought a small ‘official Winter Olympics 2010’ album and put pictures of us and our forays in it. He often looks at the pictures and pieces together that trip. Over the years, he’s forgotten some of the details and I fill in the blanks. I envision him showing his children that album in 25 years, explaining why he loves his country or use it as an example about why quality time as a family is important. I don’t know what he’d use it for, but it’ll be a piece of his puzzle to use.
Now, I no longer print the pictures, but I keep them all stored online (sorry Wal-Mart): I can save up to 25,000 pictures, so I keep the good ones and bad ones, the imperfect ones. They’re all there for him to piece together his childhood later on, uncensored.
After all, it’s his life, I’m just the archivist.