The guilt sneaks up on me sometimes. Or maybe it’s just that unmerited yet all-too-familiar “failure as a mother” sensation. It washes over me when I come across a messy stack of photos in our storage room. Or when I see that unfinished scrapbook out of the corner of my eye. Or when I can’t remember the last time I took a real photo of my seventh child.
In a world that is busy documenting, photographing, and video recording everything, I’ve somehow managed to get lost somewhere in between too little and too much.
Too few truly memorable milestones recorded, yet too many photos of I’m not sure what in disorganized messes.
The progression reflects the frenzy that big family life can easily become.
I have a huge, beautiful scrapbook full of neatly organized pictures of my first baby. My second child has a partially completed scrapbook. My attempts at being more practical with my third resulted in a much smaller scrapbook — which has since been looked at and loved to shreds. I think I have a few of those pages stuffed into a box somewhere.
Babies numbers four through six have most of their photos on Facebook or (somewhat) organized in digital albums. And then there are also a few recordings of their heights and weights at various ages on sticky notes and stickers from the doctor’s office.
Our most recent, baby number seven, ignited a new resolve in me. I received a nice digital camera as a Christmas gift a couple of months after her birth. But we still don’t know how to get the pictures off of the camera and onto my computer. (It was supposed to be easy.) And I just hope my two-year-old doesn’t break the camera before we can figure it out!
There simply isn’t time to be fully present in every moment and record each of those moments for posterity.
I was visiting my parents recently. They are getting older, and I know our time together will come to an end before I am ready. I find myself wanting to hear more of their stories. I try to memorize every detail as they recount the days of tipping outhouses and cranking homemade ice cream and plucking chickens on the farm.
Yes, the photos and scrapbooks and letters are fascinating — but they don’t mean more than my parents’ presence. The memories stick when they are paired with my dad’s smile as he remembers a practical joke. I can’t help but have a story indelibly ingrained in my mind when my mom tells it for the fifteenth time.
Someday I’ll enjoy looking through a few snapshots from their past — but I’ll enjoy reminiscing over the memories that fill my heart even more. The photos from my childhood can’t replace the vague memory of how comforting it was to sit on my mother’s lap. A written letter doesn’t compare to the memory of simply sitting comfortably in the presence of my dad — the love between us palpable in the silence.
I’m not a horrible mother if I can’t find any decent photos of my seventh child. I’ve been fully immersed in life with her, participating with her by her side rather than from behind a lens — and that is what will keep my memory alive for her more than any photo ever could.
Copyright 2019 Charisse Tierney