I wished that moment would last forever.
Simple as it sounds, simple as it was, my daddy took me to get a root beer float, lifting me up onto the barstool at the old drugstore downtown. As the pharmacist scurried to get prescriptions filled and my ice cream delight was being prepared, I pressed my nose against the glass of the display shelves, eyes wide with glee as a brand new Kodak Kodamatic 960 instant camera with rainbow straps beckoned to me.
Daddy was just as bewildered and intrigued by it as I was. He was just like a grown-up kid, fascinated with how it opened with the slight twist of your wrist and the way the flash lit up the dark corner of the drugstore that morning. We both squealed with excitement when the little square photo buzzed out of the bottom. It was magic, and we made it ours.
I still have many of those old instant photos of Daddy sitting at the yellow Formica bar smoking his cigarettes or Mama shelling peas on the front porch. For months, I could not be separated from my new camera. Over several years we became old friends, making memories together. Nobody was off limits from my amateur photography—my best friend Tracey holding her kittens, Mawmaw Belle tending her mail-order Irises near the storm cellar, unsuspecting dogs, chickens, and junior high friends. All are frozen in time thanks to Kodak.
The delight we all got from it centered on capturing a moment instantly and holding it in our hands. Technology has made what seemed miraculous then so routine nowadays that such moments are lost on so many. Grabbing the camera when distant relatives came to visit or for milestones such as graduations, birthdays, and holidays was our ritual. Today, we snap selfies on our mobile phones.
Yesterday a box fell onto the floor as I was organizing my closet. Hundreds of loose photographs spilled everywhere. When I stopped fussing, I realized the joy of gathering them all up again. What happened next was a perfect, if not productive, way to spend an afternoon.
I sat for hours on the rug beneath winter coats and scarves, strolling slowly down memory lane. I traveled back to New York City when a thinner, younger me saw the Rockettes for the first time. I relived my mama’s smile, the joy of little ones playing under the water hose on hot summer days, me at age 10 dressed as a clown for Halloween, homemade chocolate birthday cakes, Uncle Wayne making silly faces, and so many more memories all alive now only in photos, many of them taken with my first Kodak camera.
That’s the thing about slowing life down, being still for a moment or two. It provides a review of the past, and for me at least, a reason to feel that much more alive and grateful for the present before it, too, becomes only a photograph—most likely taken on an iPad.
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