Many a year ago, I subscribed to a film service called Seattle FilmWorks. The basic idea was that you would get discounted 35mm film through the mail and then return the roll for processing, all of which was quite inexpensive. The added benefit was that for a small additional fee, they would include a floppy disk with your photos on them in a digital format.
Now, I’ve long been an early adopter, learned from my dad, who, while us kids were growing up, was always on the cutting edge of technology. We had video game consoles and VHS machines and home video editors way before anyone else I knew. My first college class was in how to take apart and clean the heads of a VCR (which also resulted in my first fake ID, but I digress). I loved the idea of having my pictures easily accessible on my computer, and being able to manipulate them was a cool, added bonus!
The problem with Seattle FilmWorks, though, was the format in which they sent off the digital files was proprietary – and it didn’t play well with others. All of which means, after the company went bust more than a decade ago, if I hadn’t already archived the photos somewhere in a more universal platform, I was screwed.
Cut to last week, when my hard drive crashed and I had to get a new one – and then had to transfer all my files over manually. This meant that I was virtually going through the process of moving, and as anyone who’s ever moved knows, when you do that, you find all sorts of stuff you thought you lost or wondered why you kept in the first place. And thus it was with me and the unreadable SFW picture files. I’d been keeping them on the off-chance someone more clever than I would write a piece of translation software so I could see them once again. And while I was shuttling files I decided to see if such a translation app had shown up since the last time I looked and, well, it had. So I ran the files and suddenly, I had hundreds of photographs I hadn’t seen in years.
These were photos from a different life.
I started showing them to Rasa and then got very uncomfortable. I had pretty much used the service from the late 90s through the early part of the new century…exactly the same time frame as my first marriage. And sure enough, there were vacations the ex and I had gone on, parties we’d attended or thrown, friends I hadn’t thought about in years (and other friends who looked so young it was hard to believe we were the same people).
The kicker, for me, was a wedding. The wedding, of Sharon, one of the ex’s former roommates, had been in Cleveland in August of 2000. Her husband, whose name escapes me now, has since passed away due to a construction accident. I remember the wedding well. I remember the drama both with the bride and groom as well as some of my own extended family issues. I remember that I went to the Rock and Roll hall of fame and had great seats along the first base line at an Indians game. I remember I left there alone to go to the WorldCon in Chicago, where my friend and business partner Jeremy and I launched our ill-fated, ahead-of-its-time audio magazine Frequency. I remember all of that, but as I was inputting the pictures from this wedding of people I didn’t really know anymore, with Rasa looking over my shoulder, I wondered why am I keeping these?
I did go through a number of the pictures with her, and certainly, there are some worth hanging on to, but all of this got me thinking of memories and nostalgia. You know that old question: if you could go back and change something, would you? As I was sitting there looking at these old pictures, and reliving the memories they triggered, I wondered about the decisions I’d made that allowed some of them to fade away, allowed some of these people to drift away from life, or of the direction their lives had taken. There were pictures of a wedding of friends who are now bitterly divorced. There are pictures of young couples before their weddings and now they have children of their own and the silliness inherent in those throwaway snaps seems so far away from who they became.
And then there’s me. My answer to the questions has always been that I wouldn’t change anything, because those decisions led me to where I am now, and that still holds true. I love where I am now. I love my wife and our daughter and if I had changed anything, I wouldn’t have the life I’m living, the life I’m greatly enjoying living.
All of which brings me back to that question, do I really need to keep pictures from a wedding of people I barely remember? Do I really need to keep pictures of a life I barely remember living? One I’m much better off for having left it behind?
For right now, the answer is…maybe. Naw, I don’t need the wedding pictures, but the rest? I think I’ll keep those for a little while. Becuase the answer to that question, that all of your past leads to your present, well with a little Monki running around, she may, at some point, want to know something about my life, about who I was before She was born. She might want to know who I was before I met her mommy. And I want to be able to tell her. And show her the pictures. I want to be able to show her the path that led directly to her and why, no matter what, I wouldn’t change a thing.