Back in 2002, I got my first cell phone.
Oh yeah. The Nokia 5110.
This phone was a dream. The reception was impeccable. It sounded as clear as picking up a landline. The soft but firm eraser-like buttons required just the right amount of pressure and intention. With T9 texting capabilities and some sweet skills, you could text without looking at your phone, even if it did cost 25 cents per message.
Then they started rolling out newer, flashier cell phones. Flip phones. Slider phones. Walkie-talkie phones.
I vividly remember making a statement that I would never get a camera phone. My reasoning? A phone is a phone. Not an mp3 player, not a camera, not a gaming device (Snake excepted), but a phone. Perhaps this was because any ____-phone incarnation was just a half-assed version of the real thing.
512 KB Storage.
1 Megapixel resolution.
That internet button that led nowhere because data cost $5/MB.
I was happy with my brick: crystal-clear reception, and T9 covert texting skills. (Really, you could text without looking at your phone. It required knowing exact button patterns and rhythm, but once you cracked the code, you were set!)
And then of course, Apple came out with the iPhone and our cell devices were forever changed.
Fast-forward to today, where my 32GB, 13 MP smartphone with unlimited data makes an appearance multiple times per day, and is constantly reminding me “Hey Heather, you’ve got it good.”
It turned out that the camera in a cell phone is just as good as carrying around a point-and-shoot camera, so I renege my “a phone should be a phone” mentality. Of course this means that many, many many many photos are taken, and so I end up with this problem:
Device storage: Almost full.
Google photo storage: Almost full.
It’s not like the “old days” where you take 24 pictures, drop off the roll of film, and wait 2-3 days to trade them for sheets of glossy prints. 1 hour if you’re in a real rush and willing to pay. These days, you can take as many pictures as your memory card allows. And when that’s full, you make more room and then take more.
Therein lies my problem. Make more room and then take more. I’m running out of room. I hesitate to delete stuff off my phone because: what if it actually didn’t back up properly? The hard drive that we used to back up photos crashed and now those files are unreadable. I’ve obviously been scarred by that experience. I’ve got less than a gigabyte left before I either need to pony up and stop mooching off of Google drive, start saving at a lower resolution, or find an alternative resource for backup storage.
And it’s not because my cards and clouds are filled with award winning photographs. I’m in a constant game of keep-up with my delete button because I find it hard to part with photos like this:
As you can see, not one of these shots on their own are frame-worthy. There isn’t even one that’s in focus. They’re all blurry, grainy, and her reflection in the second picture doesn’t look anything like her.
Yet I can’t delete them!!
These are the only photos I have of this moment. If I delete them, I can never go back to that time where she was wearing that shirt, playing with that toy, with that little amount of hair and with only four teeth. The reason the fifth picture made the cut is because you can see that she only has four teeth – as blurry as it is. I can’t look at her now and see that she only has four teeth because she has a full smile. She’ll never only have four teeth ever again. (Hopefully.)
A lot of people would probably think: “Nothing is even happening in these pictures. She’s just wiggling around.” True, but I get so much from these pictures.
I can look at the filename and know that they were taken on January 16th, 2015. I know that we were still living at my parents’ house, and that we were playing in the dining room that we converted into Sweet Pea’s play area. I can still see the dining table pushed up against the wall, with my crap laying all over it because I was an unorganized mess. I know that toy is a baby shower present from my sister, and showed up on my doorstep one day because she shipped it to me as a surprise. I can see the blue plaid ottoman made by my mom that we would use to block the living room from the dining room in an attempt to keep Sweet Pea in one area.
I should really just print everything like we did in “the old days.” (Wow.) Ask me how many hard drives have crashed and failed me, and it’s a wonder I even rely on them at all. A hard photograph doesn’t just disappear because of a power surge, a corrupt file, or because of outdated software. My parents have albums that existed before I was even born. Nothing we’ve ever owned with a USB port has lasted more than 8 years. Seems like a no-brainer, right?
At the end of the day, I just hoard memories. I remember a quote from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that really stuck with me. (Hah! Now I’m really dating myself.) Willow was talking about her journals and she said: “if you don’t write about what happens, it just gets lost.”
It’s true. Try to remember what you ate for lunch 3 Tuesdays ago. Last Tuesday? Unless something significant happened that Tuesday, or you have a highly planned diet, you won’t remember unless it’s written down. But I don’t want to remember what I ate. I want to remember when my kid had barely any hair. When she had four teeth. When she played with that toy my sister bought for her. I want to be able to look back on the times when I was the most important person in her life.
But we can’t write everything down, because we’d be writing forever. So we take pictures because it’s faster. Because a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Even the blurry ones.