The Importance of Documenting Memories
A few weeks before Max was born, I set up an Instagram account in his name.
It’s a private account, which I mostly created for our benefit – and his – than anyone else’s, and the idea behind it was to take a photo of him every single day of his young life, so that one day he’ll be able to look back on it and think, “Wow, my mum was a bit cray-cray, wasn’t she?” Er, I mean, he’ll be able to look back on it and see all of those little details of his life that would otherwise be forgotten. The little clothes he wore. The way he laughs. Even his favourite toys, or the fact that he’s still totally obsessed with the clock on the livingroom wall are things I want to remember: and the fact is, I know that if I don’t take the time to document them in some way, they will so easily be forgotten.
There’s already so much I’ve started to forget. A few days ago, for instance, we were visiting my parents, and I suddenly said, “You know how we brought Max here on New Years day, and it was his first time in your house?” My parents nodded. “What did we actually DO with him?” I asked. “Like, where was he while we were all eating?”
And you know what? None of us can remember. It was three days after he was born, everything was still totally surreal and overwhelming, and I know we all sat down to dinner, as we always do on New Year’s Day, but… where was Max? Did we bring the pram with us, or the Sleepyhead? Did one of us hold him the whole time? Was he in his car seat? No idea. And I realise that this kind of detail is so supremely unimportant that you’re probably wondering why I’m even mentioning it. I get that, I do.
It bothers me, though, because these are the kind of details I used to write down obsessively, back in the days when I’d sit down at the end of each day (or, OK, sometimes the middle of each day, and at various times during each day, because there was just SO MUCH I wanted to write down, before I forgot it all…) and scribble away in my journal, faithfully recording all of those little things that seemed important at the time. I think that’s one of the reasons my memories of those days are still so vivid – there’s something about the action of writing something down that engraves it in your mind, and makes it harder to forget. Which is why I’ve always been a journaller – and why I eventually started this blog.
But I don’t keep journals any more. The blog – along with the camera roll on my phone – is now my only means of documenting my life, and I don’t write here every day, or record the tiny little details that I know would bore you all rigid if I did, and sometimes that makes me feel a little sad, because I know there are memories I’ll lose because of it. I’d almost forgotten, for instance, that in the first few days after we brought Max home, I was so tired that I actually started hallucinating a bit, thinking I could see the curtains in the bedroom moving in a breeze that wasn’t there. In another life, I’d immediately have reached for my diary and written that kind of thing down, but these days I rely on my iPhone camera to keep track of my memories, and even although I use it so much I’ve had to upgrade my iCloud storage twice since Max has been here, the resulting photos aren’t the best quality, and they’re all in a bit of a jumble, really, with all of the semi-decent shots buried amongst 1,001 blurry, or out-of-focus ones. (Or ones where I look like I have 17 chins. There’s a good reason why I didn’t publish many photos of myself during the first few weeks of Max’s life…)
In a bid to try to rectify this sorry situation, then, I did four things. First of all, I moved the DSLR camera from its usual home (a drawer in the office) down to the living room, along with all of its various lenses. We tend to spend most of our time there as a family, and that way, it’s just as easy to reach for the “Big Camera”, as we call it, rather than our phones, whenever Max does something that’s particularly cute. I obviously don’t want to focus so much on documenting his life that we don’t actually get to enjoy the time with him, but it just takes a few seconds to grab a quick photo, and at least it’ll (hopefully) be a decent quality one, that we can have printed out later, if we want to.
Secondly, I’ve been making the effort to take that Big Camera with us every time we leave the house. I’d generally only take it along if we were planning a photoshoot, because its a bit too heavy to carry around all day, but Max’s pushchair has a bag attached to the base, so I normally just pop the camera in there, so it’s easily available if I want to take a quick photo.
Thirdly, I dug out the 2018 diary I’d bought with the intention of using it for work stuff, but which has lain abandoned in a desk drawer ever since, (Er, I’ve been forced to take a bit more of a “fly by the seat of my pants” approach to work this year…) and I started to use it to note down all of Max’s “firsts”. This was actually inspired by my dad, who showed me his own diary from the year I was born last time I visited my parents: his was an appointments diary, rather than a journal, but he’d noted down the day I got my first tooth (I was 7 months, apparently, which made me even more surprised that Max got his at 4!), amongst other things. I don’t have time to keep a “proper” diary these days, but I figured something like that would be a good compromise – I just wish I’d started it when he was born!
Finally, last week I sat down and sorted through all of the thousands of photos of Max that we’ve taken since he was born, picked out my favourites, and had them printed up in a photobook from Snapfish, in time for Father’s Day.
Honestly, this is something I’d planned to do months ago: when I set up Max’s Instagram account, I had the crazy idea that I’d have the photos from it printed out every single month, and, well, that never happened. Father’s Day, though, is as good an excuse as any to finally get around to it. Not only is it almost halfway through the year, which seems like a good time to look back on it, this year it also happens to fall the day before Terry’s birthday (And 2 days after my dad’s – looks like June will be a busy old month for us, then!), which is a rather significant one. Ahem.
This obviously won’t be a surprise for him because, well, ya seen it here first, folks, but I still think it’ll be nice to have the first few months of Max’s life documented in a way that we’ll be able to look back on forever. I’ve talked about this before, but Terry and I have always been big fans of photobooks as gifts, and we’ve also made a few of them for ourselves, just so we can have some of our favourite photos all presented in a nice, glossy format, that we can actually flip through, rather than having to look at them on a screen. We’ve used Snapfish a few times now, and it’s really easy to do: as I might have mentioned once or twice or twenty times lately, I’m REALLY short on time right now, but the Snapfish site has tons of ready-made templates, so all you really have to do is select one, upload the photos, and the rest is done for you – you can even add in bits of clip-art or text, if you want.
For this book, I used the ‘Instgram’ layout, which… well, that doesn’t really require a whole lot of explanation, really, does it? (OK, it’s a minimal, grid-style layout, that looks just like Facebook. Nah, OK, I’m kidding – it’s INSTAGRAM. OBVS.) Once the images were uploaded, all I had to do was take a look through it – I did make a few small tweaks, which were also really easy (You basically just drag n’ drop to move the photos around the page…) and that was it: about a week later, it arrived on my doorstep, along with a card, which I made using a really sweet photo of Max and Terry together.
I’m really pleased with the finished result, and although the main aim here was to have a hard copy version of all of our favourite photos, I have to say, the process of sorting through and selecting them all was also really fun, and helped jog lots of memories for me. I mean, I know I say this a lot – and I’ll probably keep on saying it, too – but I’m constantly AMAZED by how quickly he’s growing and changing, and we tend to get so immersed in each new stage as it arrives that it’s easy to start to forget the ones that have already passed… or not to forget them, exactly, but for the memories to start to get a little fuzzy around the edges, even at this early stage.
So, I may not have fulfilled my aim to create a book for each month of his life, but it is something I want to keep doing on a regular basis. One of my favourite things to do when I visit my parents is to go through the giant box(es) of family photos they’ve taken over the years: I’d love for Max to have the same kind of experience, but it’s just not quite the same, somehow, to be all, “OK, son, let’s sit together and scroll through this Instagram account/folder on my computer!” so creating these physical versions of our most precious memories is something I always want to make the time for.
As I said, although I’m posting this now, I do think this kind of book would make an amazing Father’s Day gift, and if you’d like to create one too, my lovely sponsors at Snapfish are making it easy on you by offering Forever Amber readers 40% off sitewide all the way up until June 30th, with the code GIFT4DAD. Just enter the code at checkout – and have fun making yourself some memories.
[This post is sponsored by Snapfish]