Growing up most of our photographs were of holidays, birthdays, gatherings or special occasions. If I were to have taken a ‘selfie’ as a teenager, people would have questioned my sanity. Nowadays, I rarely pose or share photos of myself and often forget to take my camera out during special occasions, but that doesn’t mean, I don’t like photos. I do, and rarely a day goes by without my taking at least one. You might be surprised to know, I don’t use a camera to take these photos nor in fact do I tell anyone I am taking them. I do it with the blink of an eye, capturing the moment and filing it away in one of my many albums in the far recess of my mind.
I began to take these photos twenty years ago, when a lovely friend of mine was facing the sad reality that her life was ending many years too early. She told me she was taking these secret photos in her mind, of her husband and girls and enjoyed looking back at them at the end of each day. So, I too began to do so and she and I would regularly share our albums, sometimes hooting with laughter, sometimes with tears, but always grateful we had taken the picture.
Since that time I have filled many albums, going back to my earliest days to retrieve photos that might otherwise have been lost. In a world of multi media sharing, these photos are for my eyes only. But just for today I will open one or two albums for you to peep inside.
One of my oldest albums is titled, The Early Years. There, a very young, pyjama clad me, sits on my mum’s lap with my younger brother, living the bedroom story we are being told. There are grainy photos of five of us and a dog squashed in the back of a car, of a father kissing me goodnight, unaware my book is at the ready under my pillow. There’s photos of Mum waving the youngest three off to school, of my Godmother bringing me to have my communion photo taken, and family holidays in Donegal, always in sunshine.
Moving on you might pick up, The Teenage Years album. This is filled with family and fun, wonderful holidays and Christmases others can only dream of. There are no photos of the one who hurt me during that time. All is rosy.
As we continue to turn the pages of time you might see photos of a father becoming unwell with Motor Neurone Disease, and feel sad when you realise he can no longer speak or move, but that is not what I see. I see twinkling eyes, still sparkling and a mouth begin a smile when such a feat was almost impossible. I see a wife by his side, not pitying but loving, not nursing but caring. If you look beyond the special bed he lies in you will see his family gathered, laughing and chatting. Family life existing around him, not away from him.
There are few photos of his funeral, but plenty of the sky where I search for him, of the sunshine where I feel him and of the back garden where he will always be. In the years since I’ve continued to fill albums with Mum. Simple photos of early morning calls, garden centre trolleys, filled to overflowing as we bought so many more plants than we ever intended and snaps of the two of us, in my childhood home, companionably drinking copious cups of tea. Sadly, in March of this year, I took her final photo, but in the difficult weeks and months since, I have kept her albums close, so glad I have them to laugh or cry over.
Such is my love for taking these photos, it’s a wonder I have room for them all. My filing system can be a little flawed but I’ve done my best. There are two albums titled ‘Family,’ the one I was born into and the one I gave birth to, and others named Friends, Special Occasions and Holidays. The one titled ‘Tiny Moments’ is a particular favourite.
Today, is an ordinary day, with no major event planned. However, I have little doubt I will find a moment or two to capture with that hidden camera of mine, so that tonight or any night in the future, I can revisit those pictures and remember the many precious moments I have lived, enjoyed and appreciated. As I do I also remember my friend, Marian, who helped me make my first album and who left this world twenty years ago last week.
If you’ve not yet begun a secret album I think you should.