Proof of Happiness


Photo Circa 1967
This instant photo sort of captures that certain je ne sais quois of mornings around the breakfast table at my house growing up. (Note the bottle of ubiquitous ketchup-required for all American meals.)

Instead of sitting to write my manifesto novel for Nanowrimo, I have been looking at old photos on my laptop. I’m calling it ‘organizing’ them, but what I am really doing is procrastinating wallowing in nostalgia. Some photos are incomprehensible. Why for example did I need to take a picture of my son’s gloves with his library book? Possibly for later identification when one or both got lost? The majority of the pictures, however, besides capturing the whimsical or inconsequential impulses of a shutter bug, seems to feed an insatiable need to record the best moments of life: the trips taken, the milestones celebrated and the triumphs achieved. The purpose of photographic evidence stems from a need to document a life well-lived. But what if it is an illusion? What then?

Old Photos007
The Christmas We Beat the Tree with a Broom to Remove the Needles. (We were kids, that’s why.) Hey, Cousin Todd. Remember this one?

I have been that relative. You know the one. The person who carried a camera to all family events, insisting on posing people or worse, snapping natural pictures of people unawares with their mouths open shoving a too-big piece of cake into their pie cake-holes. We are a much-reviled breed of enthusiasts* With the advent of digital cameras and cell-phone pics, we are much harder to spot. In fact, we may now outnumber those irritating people who hate getting their picture taken. Take that you privacy freaks.

Old Photos005
You can see the joy of parenting just oozing from my father’s face. It’s as if he is warning of what happens when you gamble with your dna.

What is the source of our obsession? Why do people like me seek to pin the memory to paper? To alter and revise our lives to show only the best? Perhaps, because joy is fleeting, it needs to be recorded so that we know it is possible. That, if after enough time passes, we can believe that we were happy. We are the Kodachrome revisionists—there is no negative we cannot develop into a positive.

Old Photos029
I am the chubby little chunk in red-n-white stripes. You can just see how thrilled I am about getting a baby brother. (No idea who the guy to the right is. Ignore his inclusion in this photo. I am.)

I have boxes of pictures that never see the light of day—and probably close to a million pictures stored on my computer of people and places that I have long forgotten except when I run across them. Much like an amateur archeologist discovering a lost civilization, I am forced to sift and wonder who these people are and why they were significant enough to retain forever housed in my limitless archives?

Old Photos035
And this is the photo AFTER I have airbrushed the ink marks, random stains, and wrinkles out of the picture. It’s as good a testament of my childhood as any: This is as good as it gets, people!

Following my father’s death, I revisited our mangled childhood photos that, as children, we were apparently inspired to embellish like budding, drunk Picassos. Laden with scratches and ball-point ink pen marks, these images inspire a never-before-awakened fastidiousness in me, compelling immediate photo-shopping. (There had to be a reason I stayed up until 5:00 a.m. manically scanning and airbrushing the evidence of our crimes.)** As if I could improve on life by erasing anything that suggests it was anything but perfect. This definitely falls in the category of a bit barmy, but with as few childhood photos as my mother managed to retain despite the depredation of bored children with scissors and belatedly developed film that all came out pink, I feel it my calling to save as many of these silly moments for posterity.

Old Photos033 - Edited
This is probably the frilliest I ever looked in my life. No wonder I have a lace aversion.

So I will share with you my imperfect life. The moments where I was less than beautiful and the bizarre revelations of the hidden-camera approach to self-awareness. And perhaps, in acknowledging my flaws and letting go of perfection, I can appreciate the imperfect memories that happen when I put the camera down.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Besides the term ‘Paparazzi’ there has to be a word connoting a group of photographers! ‘Flashers’ seems to already be taken, and while ‘Soul Snatchers’ has a nice ring to it—it might get shortened to ‘Snatcher’ I don’t think it will catch on.

**I think it’s called ‘plausible deniability’.

11 thoughts on “Proof of Happiness

  1. Great post! I love your old photos and understand why you are “organizing” them instead of nanowrimo-ing. I get into that mood every time I visit my dad and sit with all those old memories he has organized neatly in so many albums.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a good share. I’m loving the kitchen wallpaper and the macrame plant hanger and your mother’s haircut.
    YOU ARE SO CUTE! Cheeks for days! Does your son have those cheeks? Do you squish’em all the time?!? I would.
    I enjoy being a spectator. I think our handy dandy cameras take us away from life. I snap plenty of photos, but now that things are digital, I feel like if I have 4-5 good shots at an event, I’m good. Before, it was like we were just chained to our lenses. I don’t miss that. I have some random pictures like the first one and I think moms do that because so much of daily life is mundane, and you want to remember how it was when it wasn’t a party and when everyone wasn’t dressed up — because that’s your real life. Candids show real life.
    I really like this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Than you. I actually think I take more pictures now with digital, not less. Back then, you had to pay to develop and then discover you had your thumb over the lens half the time and shook like an aspen leaf the rest of the time. I have some everyday life pictures, but you are right, I should be trying to capture more of the moments than the ‘biggies’. Thank you for commenting. I really liked this post myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely pictures and nice job erasing the ink marks! I love looking at old pictures. They bring back lost memories, and it’s fine if they’ve captured the best, laciest moments. If they bring up good feelings, they’re perfect. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The word for a group of photographers is a foci.
    “Possibly for later identification when one or both got lost?” Great!
    A warm post, Kiri. I love the photo with your dad, and your caption on it. You kids looked like trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have awesome powers to grant you some:

        Give me your right hand. Hmmm…. Look for yourself: Do you not see it? No? Here: Let me look at it again. Oh, no! Your hand has a terrible magical malady upon it!! Quick!! Shake it off!! That’s it.

        “Hoci Poci!”

        And THAT’s what it’s all about.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s