Saturday, July 14, 2007


I have two competing thoughts that I am trying to work out in my head and I am going to try to get at least one fully fleshed out.

In my bedroom, underneath one of the nightstands, is a large box containing a very thick album. Specifically, my wedding album. Pictures of a day in August in 1994. We actually had three albums made - two smaller ones for each of our families and one big one for us. B's mother still has hers (although where, I don't know) and I think my parents have theirs, and the complete anthology currently gathering dust underneath my nightstand was over at my aunt's for almost all of our marriage. I don't remember if I brought it back over here before or after B moved out.

I don't know what to do with it now.

I am not a picture person. Most people who know me know I hate having my picture taken and loathe looking at pictures of myself. That observation alone is interesting, as my sister - who is much more socially shy than I am and, ostensibly, has lower self esteem - she likes getting her picture taken and likes most pictures of herself. I admire that and probably should learn something from that observation, but I am on another topic. Also odd is that I love photography generally. I don't myself take pictures, but I can stare at other people's photographs for hours.

I have never been a picture person. That is, I wasn't the type to make scrapbooks (although I think I did do one after high school, but it was never completed and I couldn't tell you where it is). If my mother made a photo album of me growing up, I am unaware of it. I remember seeing pictures of us growing up, but I wasn't particularly attached to them. I couldn't tell you if I have a single picture from high school or college in my place, and the few I have from law school are buried in a briefcase. There are pictures tacked on my refrigerator, but I rarely look at them. They are there because they make the house seem homier, especially since B and I split up ("they just make the fridge look cluttered, K"). They are there because you are supposed to have pictures on your fridge.

I can probably count on one hand how many pictures I have of B and I (not including the aforementioned wedding album). We didn't take them, nor did we hang framed pictures of us all over the condo. We had one from our honeymoon, on the beach, that was never framed, but was displayed in a closed cabinet. I can tell you that there are at least five disposable cameras in the aforementioned cabinet that contain pictures (some racy, I think) of our honeymoon. We never had them developed. I think there was a period when B had a picture of me and my niece on his desk, but I never displayed one of him on mine. Suffice to say, we were of like minds on the whole picture thing.

When I at Kathy's wedding in Mexico, I was struck how much time everyone spent taking and posing for pictures. When they weren't doing that, they were reviewing the pictures they took on their digital cameras. It was a surreal sight to me. Here we are, in the moment, and everyone is looking at a snapshot of the recent past. Maybe it is just the immediacy of the digital photography technology, I don't know - the instant gratification of seeing the moment you just recorded. It doesn't make sense to me.

When I try to understand this apathy towards photographs, I have two quasi-related thoughts. The first one is that I don't need photographs to preserve a memory. That photographs rarely reflect the memory I have of a particular event, nor do snapshots of friends capture the essence of the people in them. The other thought is that I am just not a particularly visual person. I have long known this. I am wordy - both verbally and in writing. I can remember verbatim things that have been said to and by me, and things that I have read and written. I can pick up a card that was written to me years ago and remember exactly how I felt when I read it and what I understood those words to mean.

Which brings me back to a current dilemma. What do I do with that wedding album? The honeymoon picture in the closed cabinet? (I know what I am doing with the undeveloped ones.) The assorted pictures of B that are scattered about in no meaningful sense? Do I toss them out, seeing as they have limited utility to me? Does throwing them away mean I am trying to erase the past or rewrite history? And if I do toss them out, will I regret it, years later, when my memories have faded or worse? If they don't capture my memories now, will they become more accurate later? What the fuck do I do with those pictures?

Related: early on in the separation, when the wounds were much more raw, I went looking for something to remind B of where we had been - where we came from - what we had been like before we had become broken. I don't think I ever really wanted to get back together with him, just wanted some acknowledgment from him that he understood, as much as I did, the magnitude of what was lost. I found an old card he had given me while we were still dating. I am not a hoarder of past mementos and, until recently, not particularly sentimental, but I saved that card for over a decade. It wasn't even that sappy of a card, but I remember exactly what it said:

Front: "I love you more today than I did yesterday"
Inside: "Yesterday, you really got on my nerves."
Inscription: "I love you. Sorry for not always making time for us. You are what matters most. I would kiss you, but I have a cold." (the latter statement being one of our many inside jokes)

(I put that card in his sack of mail and hoped he would see it and have That Moment. Not even a Grand Gesture, just That Moment. Instead, he somehow managed to pull it out of a sizable bag of mail and said, "what, are you returning my cards to me?" B was also, quite clearly, not a man who relished words.)

Which, of course, brings me to a second dilemma. The relationship that just ended was marked by words. Thousands of emails, IMs, and some handwritten communications. What do I do with those? Do I nuke all of the messages in the account and start over? Isn't that, too, just digitally erasing history? Once they are erased, they are gone forever. Is that what I should do? Is that part of clearing my head and my heart to make room for something else? I can make a strong argument for that. But on the other hand, given my trust in words to capture a memory, shouldn't I keep them? Then again (third hand?), do I need words to capture any memory?

I don't have the answers to that one yet. I am going to try to figure out what to do with the pictures first and make my way to the words after that.

I also have to flesh out another, entirely unrelated issue that is just nagging at me.

I also just read another book that changed my life. Huzzah to moving forward, God bless momentum, and fuck mementos.


Norm said...

We have implemented the unlabeled-box-in-the-garage solution for this problem. When we die, the kids are going to have some ... questions. *chortle*

Talix said...

I nuked all of the emails from a previous relationship - two, actually - when I realized that reading them didn't make me anything but sad. I kept a couple of cards and some pictures (I am a picture person) as souvenirs, but let go of all the words.

I've never missed them.

As always, YMMV.