This past weekend, as a last hurrah before classes started, a few of my best friends and I went to Austin. As we walked along the UT campus in the sweltering heat, we saw freshmen moving into their dorms. It took us back to the day when we moved into our dorms for the first time. We saw the usual sights: parents heaving boxes around with 18-year-olds in tow, mom-mobiles in the parking lot, khaki shorts and tank tops galore.
A few hours later we went down South Congress Avenue and passed the casual guitarist and balding businessman in gym shorts. As we traveled down the street, we came across an antique store with a bowl of decapitated doll heads by the entrance.
I found a tub of old black-and-white pictures printed on hard glossy paper nestled in the corner. Some were landscapes, others were candid family photos. There were lots of glamour portraits of women with big hair and soft smiles. I loved each and every one of the pictures. I doubt that the people in them are still alive.
Although I couldn’t tell what happened after the bulb flashed and the image was married to the paper, it was a fleeting event captured on film nonetheless. The photos were tangible, small pieces of paper that I could sift through. The discolored manila corners reinforced their age. I could touch these memories. They weren’t illuminated by a screen; I couldn’t accidentally double-tap something I didn’t find loveable. It was curious looking at all of the unfamiliar faces and scenery in these photos that I held in my hand.
My phone is riddled with selfies of friends who have taken it upon themselves to have a photo shoot of their faces. There are meticulously cropped images of noses, disdainful expressions and the occasional tongue. It was different to touch a photo than it was to swipe across a screen.
I was drawn to the personal relationships contained on a 4×3-inch sliver of photo paper. The memories I had the opportunity to sort through were no more important than the ones I have accrued over the years. These photos, coupled with the memories I thought of as we passed the freshmen moving into their dorms at U.T., made me expectant for the coming school year to start.
It’s as if every memory from every stage of life is connected on a grand timeline, and, decades later, small cutouts of us might be found filed away in a plastic box for others to peer at. Hopefully these memories won’t only resurface years after the people who have experienced them have passed away. To keep their memory alive, we must make our own splendid ones, and add them to the timeline of life.