Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Photographs

In my Intro to Philosophy class at Flagler, Dr. K. took us outside to the gazebo one day. She stood in the middle and presented a scenario:

Your house is burning down. All of your family members are safe. You have time to run back inside to save one thing. What would you save?

She gave us a number of choices: family heirloom, jewelry, important documents, pets, photographs, and a few others I don’t remember. And she had us sort ourselves into groups based on what we’d save.

I, without hesitation, walked to the corner of the gazebo she had designated for photographs. A few others joined me there, but by far, we were the smallest group. Most people went for heirlooms, pets or jewelry. Dr. K. approached our group and explained to the class that she knew exactly who would go to this group. This was the group with children and the photographs of their kids would be the single most irreplaceable items in the house.

I raised my hand.

“I actually have all my photos in one single storage bucket that I can grab easily if I have to leave in an emergency.” I smiled. “I also have a folder with all important documents ready to go too.”

Dr. K. laughed, “I’m not surprised.”

She went on to a discussion about what our choices revealed about our character and our virtue.

* * *

I knew the importance of photographs well beyond the ones of my children. A long time ago, my mother’s photographs, stored in a cardboard box in her closet, were destroyed in a roof leak. It’s why I don’t have many baby pictures of myself.

So when Ashleigh was born, I never got just one set of photos printed, I always ordered doubles. I stored the negatives in special negative holders. I made sure that my back-ups were in plastic bins not cardboard.

But when digital photography entered my life, I got lazy. I stopped making double copies when I printed out pictures, I didn’t store copies anywhere except on my hard drive. I became complacent in technology.

Until The Incident. Go ahead and read about it here. (It's part of the second item - if you just want to skip to the chase. I'd tell you about it again but I have a solid pact with Scott about not talking about it. Ever again.)

That day spawned a new Super Heather capable of multi-system backups and copies. I had lost three years of photographs. All I had were the very few I had printed out. The few that my mom or sister took at the same time. Birthday parties, holidays, travel all wiped out. So I learned to backup obsessively.

* * *

Let me flash forward to a few weeks ago when I got into a major spring cleaning mood. I have a terrible habit of packing things up and then not thinking about them again – especially right after a move. In the old house, I had boxes in the attic that I hadn’t even thought of in six years! You can bet Goodwill had a field day!

In a box labeled “computer crap” that I had packed up way back in the old house during another crazy cleaning phase, I found a stack of CDs in paper sleeves. As I started going through them I realized that for some odd reason, maybe to share with family members or as a backup, I had actually copied a number of photographs onto the discs.

It took me a minute to realize what I was holding. The first one was labeled “spring break 07.” 07? I thought. As in 2007? We went to Montgomery, Alabama that year to visit my sister. That was one of the years lost in the Incident! I held my breath and popped the CD into the computer. Photos popped up. Photos I knew I would never see again. I started crying. And laughing. And screaming for the girls to come and see what I had found.

Cleaning forgotten and ignored, the three of us sat scrolling through images long forgotten. I have since copied them onto my hard drive and my external hard drive and a jump drive. I don’t take chances anymore. I’ve built in a system of redundancy when it comes to my memories.

In the even of an emergency and we need to bug out I’ve got all the important things ready to go: camping gear, food, important documents, my external hard drive and a large bin of very irreplaceable photographs.


  1. This is such a good story. I have hardly any photographs 'cause I was so busy jumping out of them. It's one of my only life regrets. If I could go back I would never duck out of a picture. Hell, I'd photobomb the shit out of people.

    I love your writing. I can totally picture every word you write out. It's really nice.

    1. I do the same thing - I always avoid getting my picture taken. I am the one behind the camera pretty close to all the time.

      And thank you so much for the complement. It means a lot! :)

  2. Memory sticks. I have memory sticks of memory sticks and cloud storage and pictures of that storage. Then pictures of the pictures. I used to make fun of the people who put all their pictures on Facebook, but then someone explained to me why. There are alternatives, but I can see doing it that way and allowing others who may have lost their pictures retrieve it through theirs. But seriously, no one needs pictures of their Wednesday night dinner.

    1. Yeah. some FB photos freak me out just a bit. But I do understand the reasons. One of the things I love about digital is that I can delete crappy photos right away and not got it another thought.

  3. it's nice that you found them by surprise. That in itself is going to be a special memory for you and your children. I'm guilty of not having any back-ups, I really need to do something about that.

    1. Back up!! Back up right now!! I implore you!!!

      We had a blast going through the photos. A couple of videos were there too and it was sweet hearing the little girl voices again!