The Power of Photos

Few things have the memory kicking power of digging through old photos or audiotapes. I’m in the middle of a visit with my father, and I’ve been sorting through old slides and photographs, keeping the scanner whirring. What a thrill to discover dozens of photos I missed last time I went through this collection. Many of them were pictures of me wearing some of my favorite clothes. One of the pictures shows the skirt I made the first year I entered the Make It Yourself With Wool contest. That’s quite a story, and it reminds me of several memories centered around wearing that specific skirt and sweater.

Other pictures star my baby brother. He was just the cutest kid, and I’d want lots of pictures of him in any event, but some of those pictures have a bonus. In the background I see various rooms of the house we lived in when he was born. What a jackpot! I am currently compiling a collection of stories about growing up in Los Alamos, and these pictures will help me add more vivid detail about the house and general area, and I can include some of those pictures as illustrations.

The next blast from the past occurred when I began transferring some very old cassette tapes to MP3 format using the tape deck my dad has connected to his computer. The very first tape I transferred has music my brand-new husband recorded on reel-to-reel tapes the first summer we were married from records played at the folk dancing club we attended. I’d been dancing with that club for two or three years before I met him, and this music pops me right back in that room at the Los Alamos Community Center from seven to nine on Tuesday evenings. About twenty years ago I transferred those songs to cassette tapes, just before the reel-to-reel recorder died. Now any form of tape is an endangered medium, but the MP3 recordings should remain accessible indefinitely on a DVD disk.

I also have some tape-recorded conversations with long-dead grandmothers, and it’s eerie hearing their voices again. More memories to store in the digital collection! I strongly urge you to record some family history chats with your relatives, and I suggest using a digital recorder or a microphone plugged into a laptop with the free Audacity audio capture program running.

By the way, you may have picked up on the fact that my dad has even more cool tech toys than I do. He never touched a computer until he retired about twenty years ago, but he’s certainly made up for lost time. It’s never too late to start using computers.

The last find of the day may be the most stunning. In 1992 I went to Japan on a Total Quality Management study tour. We spent a weekend in Kyoto, and I had totally forgotten that I had tape recorded many highlights of that weekend, including our visit to the Emperor’s Palace and a couple of other places. I found that on the reverse of a tape that holds some of my husband’s family history narrated by his mother. I got goosebumps when I heard my own voice describing Japanese tour bus protocol. There is no other way I could have recorded those thoughts and observations so accurately and immediately. Now I can add to the story I wrote about that trip shortly after I got home. I probably recorded over half my audio notes, because I had not labeled the tape. Lesson learned!

Write now: rummage through your collection of old photos, music, videos, and similar things. List and write about memories you find.

1 comment :

Linda Austin said...

I just had a visit with my dad and his brother, an uncle I rarely see, where they pulled out old photo albums and the family had a great time looking at their childhood life on a farm in what is now Chicago. We studied some loose photos of "strangers," trying to identify who they could be by looking at clues in the photos...a reason to go thru your photos now and LABEL THEM!

Dad also gave me a stack of CDs he had made from cassettes he'd recorded many years ago of my grandmother, great uncle and aunts talking about their lives. That's my blog entry for next week and I'll be referencing your post.