The passage of time. With each year, it turns over another page in our books, etches another wrinkle into the faces of your loved ones, silvers the hair.
I think so hard about it, as though trying to suspend it in my mind. It’s no use, because even as I think about it, the seconds slip away from me.
Sometimes, no, often, I’ll feel a pang of longing. A wish to be able to recover those childhood diaries, the stories I used to write, and see the handwriting on the pages. It’s proof that I was there. I feel worry about losing the photos of my dog when we just adopted her and she was a puppy. It’s proof, that her younger self was here. I’ll flip through the well-loved copy of The Goblet of Fire, dog-eared and wrinkled, and remember how I felt so many years ago when I first read the series. It’s proof, that I was there (I wasn’t really though, I was somewhere off in the castle exploring alongside the characters).
I collect these artifacts of time in my mind’s museum. I fear they’ll crumble and disappear, so I’ll take them out every once in a while and dust them off, turning them over slowly and reliving the scene.
Lying on my belly on my top bunk and calling my friend on the landline while we wrote silly stories. Letting my puppy run around in our yard off-leash for the first time, and how she looked like a hurtling snowball, all smiles and tongue out. The light slowly filtering into my bedroom as I lean against my bunkbed.
I hold these scenes in my mind in the same way I zoom in and focus when I’m experiencing the joy of being with my loved ones, or my own company. Opening my eyes a little wider and blink, like I’m trying to freeze time.
Those moments you know you’ll look back upon fondly, even if it’s as simple as a walk with a friend. Even if it’s as simple as lying with your dog in the sun’s square paintings on the carpet. Even if it’s as simple as walking in the freezing cold, wishing to be warmed by the strings of fairy lights hanging above you on main mall.
Last time I was back home, mom showed me a sweater I used to wear all the time when I was like, 14. I tried it on and it just barely fit. I was surprised, because looking at it off the hanger, it looked so small. Like the way ships look like a tiny speck on the horizon from where you’re standing on the shore of the pebbled beach. I can still remember the way the sleeves used to drape over my hands and the hem hung too far past my hips.
My mother always likes to take photos when we’re on vacation. I used to always feel a bit annoyed when she’d stop us so often to take a photo of us. There I am in the frame, mid “cheese”, beach/statue/building in the background, sun in my eyes and I’m wincing slightly — can you see it?
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still do feel a bit impatient.
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized how vital photography is to her. Her photos are an act of love. It’s clear in the way she carried out the tripod to the beach and sprinted back and forth to get the timer right and make it back into the frame. It’s clear in how she spends days after every family trip, making a photobook on Costco’s boomer printing software, and ordering extra copies for us to have when we’re older.
In her storage, are stacks of photo albums, with windows into her life 20 years ago. Sometimes, she’ll remind me to print out the photos on my phone so I won’t lose them.
Remembering is an act of love, whether it’s for loved ones, strangers, or your past selves (even for the you that existed 20 minutes ago).
So, I find myself taking more photos and writing more mundane thoughts. I used to be so selective regarding what I took photos of, thinking I had to reserve my camera roll for when I had the perfect conditions to get the perfect shot. Now, I realize that all I can place in these imperfect vessels are imperfect experiences, which I may or may not look back upon fondly one day.
It’s my way of self-preservation. I’m laying down the markers for my future self.
It’s my hug in a bottle to her, saying “look, these are the stones you can follow to find yourself again”.
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