July 21, 2011

Scan Cafe Rendezvous

This week I cleared out all my photo albums, what feels like 50 lbs of memories that I've been lugging around for decades. The impetus was receiving a free membership to Scan Cafe when I joined our local NPR station KQED. Scan Cafe will digitize up to 600 images and I decided this was a great opportunity to off-load and up-load these visual records of my 42 years.

What I realized, when sorting through the photos, was that they were of people, places and things. Pretty obvious until you have to decide which images make the cut and which don't. I found myself being very interested in blurry, over-exposed and out-of-focus images that were often part of a series of similar shots. Why had I saved these originally, as opposed to keeping just one? Perhaps it was my early interest in photography beginning to develop.

Another unexpected surprise was that I liked reading the messy, oversized, misspelled words that I had written in the sticky albums as I described the occasions. But after a second round of edits, I decided I could live without those notes. Now I am wondering if I was too quick to edit.

The photo album clean out lead me next to my memory boxes, another 50 lbs of stuff. It was easy to make the first cut - getting rid of the birthday and greeting cards I had received over the years. These mostly just had a quick note scrawled next to a mass produced image. I did find a Valentine's Day card from my first crush and noticed, for the first time, that he had drawn hearts inside, I had been too focused on the "love" part when the card had been cherished all those years ago. I remember having hidden it in my bathroom above the light and knowing that I had a secret love note.

Once those were out of the way I got to the good stuff - many handmade cards from my sister. I hadn't realized how many unique creations she had sent me over the years. There were also dozens of postcards and letters from elementary, high school, college, and summer camp friends, plus my mom, dad and my brother. Those also made the cut. I miss getting and sending these letters, especially now that we just keep in touch by Facebook and the occasional email.

I also found an envelope of small watercolors that my post-college boyfriend had given to me to hold on to for safe keeping while he travel led the world. I remember taking the assignment very seriously - as is evidenced by their still being in my possession after 20 years. I contacted him via Facebook this week to get an address to return his artworks. Ironically, he said he was intrigued and hadn't remembered the paintings. That was a shock because I had thought they were so important to him at the time. I suppose they are just bits of history that got dredged up and cleared out in my Scan Cafe rendezvous.