• 66°

Get your photos printed

The past seven weeks have been hard ones for my family.

Since May 25, we have lost (in this order), my sweet and kind 90-year-old maternal grandmother, my loving and feisty 93-year-old paternal grandmother, and a beautiful and spirited 27-year-old former foster cousin, who lived with my aunt and uncle for nearly eight years and whom we all still thought of as family.

I say all that because it is the introduction to something I have realized over the past several weeks is so important: having printed photos.

In this digital world, it’s so easy to take photos as an afterthought, maybe post them on social media and get a few likes or comments, delete them from our phone when we run out of storage space and never think of them again.

But before digital cameras and especially smartphones, that wasn’t the case. Film and developing weren’t free. Every frame on your roll of film was valuable, and you wanted to get it just right. Most folks didn’t even have the camera out unless it was a special event, like Christmas or a birthday.

But for me, nothing will ever replace the experience of flipping through a batch of freshly printed photos, trying not to get my fingerprints on them and smiling at the memories, however recent, that they represent.

Even better was the experience I had last weekend. My mom and I decided to go through a paper grocery bag full of photos that my paternal grandmother had saved. These were all sorts of random photos, many of which my mom and I had never seen. There were old pictures of extended family, photos of my grandmother’s co-workers when she worked at Fort Monroe, photos of my grandfather as a small child — even photos of my grandmother in a two-piece bathing suit!

The ones I cherished most were the ones showing family members who have already gone to Heaven, and the ones showing all of us as a big happy family. There’s even one with me, both of my parents, my dad’s mom and both of my mom’s parents about to board the Spirit of Norfolk. I don’t even remember that trip. Of those six people, only my mom and I are left.

We enjoyed strolling down memory lane and showing my husband all of the photos. He particularly enjoyed the ones of me as a child with spaghetti and chocolate all over my face.

When my former foster cousin died suddenly this week, my other cousins were taking digital pictures of old prints they had and posting them on social media. Facebook didn’t even exist yet when she left my uncle and aunt’s home and went back to her biological mother. Had those photos never been taken or developed, we would have no photos to remember her by at all.

I hate to think that there’s a generation that will never have the experience of looking through old pictures in the way that I’ve been privileged to do.

So embrace that digital camera and your smartphone. Take all the pictures you can of all the people you can, especially your closest family and friends. And get them printed out — the good ones, yes, but also the candid shots, the half-smiles, the not-so-perfect bodies in swimsuits and the food on your face. Those are the ones that will bring a smile to a face decades from now.