Preserving Memories


“Oh today, I finally overcame

Tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame”

John Mayer

The morning always seems to come rushing in.  It almost doesn’t matter what time I finally let the night take me away, the pale yellow of sunrise seems to filter in just moments later.

The sounds of waking children filter through the monitors early, giving me time to snuggle up for just a few more minutes.  The calm before the storm.

Riley almost always appears first, ready to embrace the day.

I hear her making her way down the hallway, pausing for a moment outside of Liam’s room to listen for him.  Concluding that he’s still asleep (he’s not), she tiptoes into out room and crawls into my arms to cozy up to me for a moment.

We whisper about dreams, plans for the day, and breakfast.  We savor a few moments of Mommy and me chitchat before Liam arrives, bounding in with enormous energy that wakes Sean and gets the day started.

Day after day, we follow the same routine.  Some days she’s quiet, contemplating the day ahead.  Other days, she’s full of ideas – ready to take on anything.   

On this day, she craves family time.

“Mommy, I have the perfect plan.  We should go to the zoo!  We can see trucks on the way for Liam and animals and have a picnic!”

The thought of getting everyone up and out early enough to enjoy the zoo before Liam crashes overwhelms me for a moment, but it’s nearly impossible to say no to a face full of excitement and wonder.

“I’ll pack my backpack with everything we need!”

Sean agrees to the plan before I can even object and the next thing I know we are cooking, eating, and getting dressed.

She works carefully, packing her version of essentials:  Band Aids (Cars for him, fairies for her), books, binoculars, and loveys.  Liam trails her, adding his own essentials along the way.

With sweatshirts and shoes and a well-packed lunchbox, we take one last look around to make sure that we have everything we need.

Standing side-by-side at the kitchen counter, Sean and I stare at the camera.  Always the picture taker, I leave it within arms reach.

Never miss a moment.  Preserve every memory. 

Our eyes meet.

“Are you bringing the camera?”

“No, I don’t think so.  I just want to enjoy the day.”

And just like that, in a moment, I freed myself from trying to capture every single moment of perfection.  I finally chose to walk away from the need to fit our lives inside a picture frame.

I lost my father before I was ready.  For years, I stared at pictures in an attempt to connect the memories.  I ached to remember every little moment.  I looked for clues hidden beneath the smiles.

When my daughter arrived six years ago, I vowed to document everything.  I wanted to remember every moment, the big and the small, along the way.  For a while, I captured everything.  Smiles, milestones, silly moments that should never be forgotten…I kept my camera close at hand so that I wouldn’t miss a moment.

In doing so, I learned a valuable lesson.

Photographs preserve moments.  Photographs create a canvas – a place to see what happened.  Photographs fill your home with smiles and warmth.

But photographs don’t preserve memories.

Memories can only truly be made when you step away from the lens, when you stop trying to capture the moments.

Memories are preserved in your heart.

When I sit back, in a moment of quiet, close my eyes, and open my heart, only then can I truly access the memories of my father and my childhood.  The smell of hot apple cider on a cold autumn day in Connecticut…the feel of the spray from the boat pounding on the waves…the twinkle in his Irish eyes and the smile that never seemed to fade…all of these memories are stored away in my heart – ready to access whenever the moment feels right.

My greatest hope is that my children will grow into kind and empathetic adults with hearts full of memories, and that the memory of my smile will brighten their days just as the memory of my father’s smile brightens mine.


4 comments responses to "Preserving Memories"

  • Katie, that was wonderful and so true. I wished we lived closer we live very similar lives with very similar ideas about life, love, relationship and family. Keep up your exceptional writing.

    posted by: Robin Bradley on March 17, 2013

  • What a wonderful piece, Katie. Thank you!

    posted by: robin on March 15, 2013

  • I am so very sorry to hear about your dad…I truly believe that losing a parent is just plain hard no matter your age. Learning to live in the moment is still a work in progress – but it has really freed me in a lot of ways. Enjoy your memories – they will keep you smiling for years to come.

    posted by: Katie Godbout Hurley on March 14, 2013

  • Oh my God, I so needed to read this! I have the same problem. .this was a wake-up call for me to put the camera down and “live” in the moment instead of preserving it in a picture. My children are all grown now, the youngest just turned 20 years old, and I lost my father nine months ago after a battle with pancreatic cancer and although I LOVE looking back at all the pictures I have what brings me the most joy are the memories of times we’ve shared together and the feelings attached to those memories. Thanks again for reminding us to live in the present, not the past nor the future :)

    posted by: Charlene Salome on March 14, 2013