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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Snapshot

I worked at the Missouri State Fair this year taking pictures in the Cooperative building. I’ve had this job before and always enjoyed handing over this personal souvenir of the fair. The pictures are taken in front of a backdrop with the year, a life-sized Buddy Bear, and the words “Fun at the Fair.” I snapped the pictures as soon as the babies stopped crying and the adults quit scowling. Another cooperative employee pulled them up on a computer screen and sent them to the printer.

Part of the fun is seeing the priceless expression on a newbie’s faces when he realizes the picture is free. “You aren’t going to get my phone number or email account number to pressure me to buy something else?” one man asked.

“No, we aren’t even going to ask your name,” I replied. “We just take a picture and give it to you.”

Having their picture taken is on some people’s “must do at the fair” list. They walk through the door and immediately get in line to have their picture taken. One man said, “We have fifteen of these on our refrigerator—one taken each year.” Another man said, “This is our annual family picture.” A woman said with surprise in her voice when she looked at the picture of her daughter, “She’s taller than Buddy Bear now!”

A lot of us have annual events that mark the passage of time. It may be a family reunion, a holiday, or the State Fair. It’s amazing to compare snapshots year-to-year and see how we have changed. It’s always a little bittersweet when you look at your children, or grandchildren, and visually time travel the distance from one year to the next in a veritable blink of an eye.

Pictures used to be harder to take and people my age didn’t grow up in front of digital cameras and cell phones that send pictures to the Internet in a few clicks. We had to buy rolls of film with 12 or 24 pictures on them. We snapped away and then sent the film off to be developed. So we paid for film, paid for photo development, and then threw away about half of the pictures because they didn’t “take.” The good thing about the old-fashioned way is we ended up with print photos. Now, I take hundreds of pictures and store them on my computer, and seldom have print copies of them.

Snapshots are a pictorial history of our lives. They can help us retrieve memories that are filed within the deepest recesses of our brains. Sometimes a picture can remind us of how the sun felt on our skin, or how the breeze smelled. Snapshots are a way of time travel without using any mythical machine.

When Jim went into the nursing home, we surrounded him with photos of family. He had several small photo albums to remind him of better times. Occasionally, he would look at a photo and say the names of the people in the pictures.

I brought pictures of Jim on my advocacy trips to Washington DC. The first picture in my small album was of Jim dressed in his western shirt, Levis, and cowboy hat before dementia changed him. The second picture was of the early stages, what I called his eccentric stage, when he wore a denim jacket decorated with pins and his battered nametag from Branson. In the middle stages, the picture was taken at the park and he wore a Kansas City Chief’s shirt and sweatpants. His eyes have a blank look. Then in the later stages, the picture showed Jim in the nursing home hallway sitting in his merry walker.

Now, most of the snapshots are put away, and I only look at them occasionally with smiles and, sometimes, tears. The pictures are a one-dimensional view of a full and rich lifetime of memories.

Special events roll around annually and in the meantime, we will snap away to fill our computers and photo albums with people we love and places we visit. Life goes on and we continue to take pictures and record today for tomorrow’s history.

Copyright © L. S. Fisher August 2011
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