It’s not unusual for me to take photos of my son. I have a lot of them. A LOT of them. I took one of him today picking up dog poop in the back yard.
I like to take pictures of him, I think because it is tied to my fear of loss and my hatred of growing older and my tendency to hoard things, including memories. Every snapshot captures a moment, and when I look at it later, I remember the circumstances under which I took the photo. Someone was angry and only pretended to smile for the camera and then later we had ice cream and that fixed everything. Or the last time we all went on an outing somewhere before the place closed and was torn down.
I may or may not have an irrational fear of losing things. Places, people, products. They discontinued my soap recently. It’s just one in a long line of products that have been taken away; my favorite flavor of Kool-Aid, my favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. A true hoarder would have had a case of the soap the hallway, so the loss might not be felt for a year or more. Me, I had one bar left when I found out. I’ll find something else that I like – maybe not as much, but it’s just soap. I will adjust to the loss of my soap.
I have two specific photos I’ve taken in my life that I would call morbid. One of was of my grandfather, in his casket. It didn’t occur to me that people didn’t take photos at funerals, but I was just a little kid, I owned a camera, and my parents said it was okay. All the flowers were so pretty; why wouldn’t you take a picture? But looking back, it is an odd photo. I remember taking it. I remember my grandmother looking at me, and me thinking she was checking to see if I was crying. My cousin was crying. I felt guilty because I wasn’t. All that comes back to me when I even think about that snapshot. The other morbid photo was one I took of my son when he was 15 months old. We were taking him in for surgery that morning, to get ear tubes to prevent the constant infections he’d had since he was born. Horribly common surgery for babies, but you have to sign all those papers that say you understand the risk, and any parent who doesn’t break out in a cold sweat signing those may need some kind of intervention. I took the photo the morning we were going in for the surgery. I couldn’t not take one. He was happy, in his red PJs and had bed-head. That’s how I would want to remember him; that this was how he looked, right up until the moment of whatever fate had in store for him (and us.)
Luckily, the surgery went fine, changed our lives for the better, and he just turned 13 last week. I still take his picture all the time. Some part of me just wants to capture all the memories so that I won’t forget, won’t ever forget. Places and people and products get taken away from me all the time, and I guess the only way I can fight back is to take pictures and store them on hard drives, DVDs, shoe boxes and in photo albums. I hoard memories, and if I take a picture of you, don’t get annoyed with me; I’m trying to hold on to you tightly the only way I know how.