Sort Of There

Sorry for the radio silence — I’ve been very focused (I’m practically sure there must be a pun in there) on my photo project, and it’s cut into my blogging time.

Here’s how my cleaning/sorting projects have gone, for a lifetime: I start with great intent and fervor, then my attention gets claimed by something else, and I leave the first project strewn in a thousand small pieces across some large part of the domestic landscape. By the time I wheel back around to the original project, I have no recollection what any of the piles were for, and I find myself starting over, with the same result.

So I’m trying to do better this time, but I did veer from my original plan, and this zig has resulted in a thousand small pieces across some large part of the domestic landscape. But this seems like it might ultimately be more productive — as long as I stick with it.

On Day One of my project to digitize my billions of photos, I was indiscriminately scanning whatever came up out of the box. I did set aside duplicates and photos that just weren’t good, and these did, in fact, find their way into the trash. I think I have now filled the bottom third of a desk trashcan, which I think we all ought to count as a huge personal victory for me.

Then I woke to an epiphany: how many photos of the Fresca Can Toss do I need to remind myself of the fun?

For the uninitiated, the Fresca Can Toss was a staple of the bee-day bashes I used to throw for myself and my fellow September babies back in the day. People would convene at a mountain park up Taylor Canyon that was owned by the city, and I had a whole list of activities on tap, including Twinkie relays (of which there aren’t too many photos), the Bee Game (lots of photos) and the Fresca Can Toss (endless photos that look very similar despite different participants in the chair).

A can toss winner saw success through a combination of style points, distance and accuracy. While occupying a small lawn chair in whatever fashion most suited the competitor, he or she would fling an empty Fresca can toward a five-gallon bucket. It was a lot of fun, and seeing the pictures brought it all back for me, but after scanning a large number of them and then sleeping on it, it occurred to me that there’s a lot of sameness in the photos, and perhaps I don’t really need to keep each one.

So I revised my approach to this project, and emptied two boxes and a drawer into sorted piles on a card table. Before I just clutter up the bytes on my computer like I have these unsorted containers, I can curate my collection, just like I would if I were making a photo album. Which is, I suppose, ultimately what I’m doing.

I did leapfrog to the end goal of this project by buying a digital picture frame. I went to Walmart, which I feel is likely my only option locally — there’s a small, outside chance Ace Hardware, with its vestiges of what’s left from its Radio Shack venture, might have one, but Walmart definitely had them and was closer — and examined three dusty boxes on the bottom shelf. Apparently there’s not a lot of call for digital picture frames these days.

The first model was 10 inches and offered wifi. After I specifically decided against taking pictures of my pictures with my cellphone, this frame seems to receive photos through the air from phones, anywhere in the world. Too much technology for me.

Another model, only seven inches (which turns out to be a bit small), came with technology I understand: you plug in a card (those I don’t really get, although I know they’re in my phone and in the video camera at work) or a flash drive.

Flash drives I understand, kind of: I’m still not clear how so much digital data can be stored on something so small. I was going to ask why we need computers at all anymore, but I guess the answer, pointing toward the future, is that we really don’t. These days the hip young people do everything from their phones.

Being neither hip nor young, I opted for the frame with the technology I sort of understand, because I don’t want to end up with a photo frame filled with Fresca Can Toss pictures I don’t know how to remove. I can figure out how to control content on a flash drive, sort of: I’m still trying to figure out where in my computer the pictures I’ve scanned are.

Two folders showed up of their own volition inside my “pictures” folder, so I put those on the flash drive I barely managed to find at Walmart (visiting technology aisles in any store just points up how much further I keep falling behind), and: instant reward. I can see pictures that have been moldering for decades. Success!

But now I have come to a dilemma, and that is: am I a bad uncle if I think I have too many pictures of my niece?

I have two nieces, three nephews and three great-niecphews, and the picture count is horribly skewed. Much of this lies in timing. My niece on my side, Ellie, came along before the digital age, and she was the first child, with many relatives in close proximity. If you look at the photo of photos above, on the left is the stack of pictures devoted exclusively to Ellie, and I’m pretty sure every last picture in the pile chronicles her first four years.

The still-large pile next to it consists of photos of Ellie with family members, also pretty much limited to a span of three-four years. The next pile, notably smaller, is her younger brother Justin, also pictured pretty much in his infancy, including the right-hand pile, which is pictures of Justin with family members. Pictures of the two of them together, a few of these as they aged, are in front.

The “bad uncle” piles are in the back. To the left are the pictures that I can’t tell if it’s Ellie or Justin. To the right is pretty much my full collection of niecphews from Lynn’s side. It’s one picture of Elliot, at probably age 9.

While all three of these niecphews are older than Ellie, and thus should come with piles of paper pictures, I didn’t meet any of them until they had aged out of those formative years when the cameras are snapping apparently endlessly.

We did get a Christmas card from nephew Eric with pictures of his three tykes, all of them in those photogenic years, but one of those is going in a frame bound for the wall. Along with niece Emily, who thoughtfully sent an entire album of her wedding last year that we got uninvited to because of covid.

I have put the picture of Elliot in the “scan” pile (in my defense, I already scanned the school photos we got one year from the three of them); the giant Ellie piles have been set to the side because, no matter how bad this sounds, I’m pretty sure I don’t need every last photo in them.

This may be a victory in the paring-down process, but I’m not sure where it puts me in the familial process.

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