It occurred to me that not a day goes by when I don’t pull out my phone and snap a photo of my son. Sometimes it’s because he is doing something that boggles my mind, something I didn’t expect, or something profoundly moving for me. Often I am simply trying to capture a moment in time either for the sake of his future memories or mine. I am constantly bewildered by the fact that he is growing so fast before my eyes that some days it feels that I am losing my baby boy. In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all other forms of Social Media it is possible to be creating a living time capsule of our lives. Not only am I capturing a moment in time for my memory but I am instantly able to share the moments with friends and family around the world and engage in their immediate response, it is no longer simply for my gratification but now it becomes everyone’s. I realize my obsession comes from two places. First, I feel my son is quite simply the most stunning and adorable young boy on the planet and he takes my breath away each day. Secondly, part of my desire to capture every memorable moment of Tino’s life is that I have so few from my own.
Growing, cameras were not a part of my life. In fact there are only two photographs of me that I found after the passing of my father. Both photos are from my infant stages without trace of who took them. I have no photos of my father and me together either. My father was busy with the restaurant and often not able to attend school events, dance recitals etc. The first photographs I have of my own life do not really start until I was in college. Even after college, I went to Africa for seven years and we were not able to carry cameras with us and at that time and in the places I was film was not accessible. There were even place in some countries in Africa where it was against local law to have a camera and police would take them from people on the streets if they were seen with cameras, so it was just better not to have them. While not having photos to look back on has not limited the memories I cherish, I can’t help but feel in this time of social media blitz it’s a shame I can’t share the memories as easily with others. Gone also are the days when I could ask my father to recall a story or a memory. It’s hard to believe he has been gone since I was 27. Today, the stories I have are the stories he told me.
I love capturing the moments of my son’s life as a token for him to look back on and provide him something he can share with his children. I wish I had these images to share with him the story of my life and that of my father’s before either of us. Sometimes I worry about leaving this life before I see my son’s life fully blossom. I don’t want to leave my son’s life when he is only 27, left to cope in this world without my support, advice and knowledge. I know it all too well. I know that elements of this are beyond my control, but believe I will make it a point to leave him with these photographic memories. The other day we were at the pool and I couldn’t help but notice the other children in the pool, mostly playing on their own. Often there is a parent there, sitting on the bench distracted by their phone, depending on the lifeguard to keep an eye on the children. I also notice that the children tend to swim less, play less and start acting up as a way to garnish attention. They just want their parent’s presence.
I ask myself what it takes to create a memory. Is a photo enough? Nope. Experiences create memories, I know that. I came across a quote this week holiday shopping, “Children don’t want presents, they want presence.” I know that to be true, because while I may not have a photograph of my fifth, or sixth or seventh birthday party, I have memories that are vivid because my father made sure that each event was an experience I would never forget. While I don’t have photographs of the holidays we took and the many places we traveled together, I will never forget those places and experiences we shared together. His presence would mean more to me than any “thing” or photo could capture. What I hope for my son, is that he can have both, my presence and one day the photographic memorabilia to reflect on. So my advice this holiday season, worry little about the presents and place energy in the presence. And yes capture the moment if you can, but not at the expense of missing the moments.