Friday, December 13, 2013

A year's worth of memories

Amid the tree trimming, letters to Santa, cookie making, and present wrapping madness of the holidays, I take a trip each year down memory lane, perusing photographs from the past 12 months in the process of creating photo calendars for family members.

It is a fun ritual to look through the photos of the past year, deciding which to include in each calendar, and remembering some of the things we’ve seen and done. A year’s worth of photographs stretches from winter outings into springtime mud puddles, summer fun, the colors and activities of fall, and back to winter again. Around we go.

Every photograph offers a glimpse into one moment of time, and each one evokes emotions and memories. Every image comprises a story, or at least the introduction to a story. Of course, the moments we photograph and save are generally the happy ones, whether big events or impromptu clicks of the camera during good times. In this way, we commemorate the joyful and proud moments and ignore the less-than-cheery events.

Looking through photo files of the year gone by takes me quite a while, as I become sidetracked by the details I’ve already forgotten, things that would likely fade from memory without those images to hold them: the happy-and-a-little-bit-nervous smiles of the first day of school, giggling walks through the lupine field, spontaneous living room dance parties.

Contained in the 2013 collection are a summer week on Cape Cod, an autumn trek to Montreal, visits from the cousins from Tennessee and California, a wedding celebration, and plenty more: bike rides, hikes, holiday festivities, jumping into leaf piles, skiing through snowy glades, the intricacies of constructing fairy houses and decorating the Christmas tree.

Looking beyond the most recent set of photographs to images from years past, I remember my children’s toothless baby grins, how crazy the littlest one’s hair was when she was tiny, the furrowed brow my son often wore as an infant, and that the sweet-bordering-on-mischievous gleam in my eldest daughter’s eyes is the same now as it was in her earliest months.

I remember how my children, as toddlers, loaded freshly harvested carrots and potatoes into their Tonka trucks and carted them from the garden to the house, the springtime bouquets of bright dandelions they picked, their first snow angels, my then-2-year-old son teaching his baby sister to crawl, that baby’s first bike ride without training wheels, how grown up my daughter seemed in the costume for her first dance recital.

In photographs I see that some of the outings my family enjoys now are similar to the adventures I had as a kid. I have a picture of myself around age 6 helping my father build something, and one of my son at the same age wielding a hammer with his grandfather. I have a photograph of the pigtailed little girl I was sitting at the top of a hike with my mom, and one of my own two daughters in nearly the same spot with her a few decades later.

Around and around we go.

The kids will clamor to flip through the new calendars when they arrive, before we wrap them up and put them under the tree, remembering together some of the fun of the year just passed. They also love looking through the older calendars and the baby books, finding within the pages their smaller selves and remembering the stories contained in these photographs.

As the year comes to a close, the 2013 calendar will join the small stack of calendars from previous years, which we’ll dig out of the closet every now and then, flipping through the memories. And before the 2014 calendar is unwrapped and hung on the wall, we’ll have begun taking the next round of pictures, creating new stories as a new year glistens on the holiday horizon.

So the world turns. Around and around we go, snapping photographs, holding onto moments, and replaying memories along the way.

Original content, posted by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul and posted to her Blog: Writings From A Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the December 13, 2013 edition of the Littleton Record.

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