My son’s extended relatives—who all live far from Baltimore—are always demanding more pictures of him be posted on Facebook. I sometimes feel like my wife and I accidentally signed ourselves up for an unpaid digital photography internship. But, of course, our family’s photo obsession is sweet, and why shouldn’t they crave pictures of him? After all, they don’t get to see him every day like I do. So what’s my excuse, then?
I have often been guilty of sitting the kiddo up in my lap so we can look at pictures of him together on the computer screen, (Well, I look at them. He mostly pulls his head back to stare at the ceiling fan.) Only recently did I realize the absurdity of staring at images of my child, when, if I angled my head a few degrees, I could be looking at the real thing.
It reminds me of when I traveled to New York City as a child. I stood just outside the Statue of Liberty, not staring up in awe at the literally monumental vastness of the original, but rather transfixed by the dinky, plastic facsimile my Grandma bought for me in Battery Park before we boarded the ferry.
Perhaps we feel more connection to souvenirs because we understand that they outlast the moments they memorialize. They are the infinitesimally small piece of the memory that we get to own. I still have that little plastic Liberty, and I can now only barely remember the view from the actual statue’s crown. Someday all I will have of my son’s infantile smile are hundreds upon hundreds of digital photos on Facebook and Flickr.