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Love and family in the time of COVID-19

Guest blogger Stephanie Wargin shares a personal and intimate perspective on the importance of family and memories during this historic time.

In early 2018 when my son was two years old, I began downloading numerous photo editing apps on my phone. I’d decided around Christmas time that I wanted to up my photography and Instagram game, but more importantly, I wanted more concrete lasting memories of my son as he grew into toddlerhood.

Blonde Boy Lying

My beautiful boy has always been a bright light in my life. Bold and brilliant, clever and cute. There are hundreds of photos and videos on my phone, my husband’s phone, the family iPad. Adorable as they are, they didn’t quite capture his personality. His story.

I decided to learn some fundamental photography so I could capture shots that evoked the emotion of the moment. Serenity, laughter, energy, mischief. Not only for the kiddo, but for myself, as well. I hoped to capture my own moments, remember my own adventures as a woman, a writer, an explorer, a mother.

Learning my new hobby was a joyful experience and I got some great shots over time. Eventually I invested in a pricier camera (a Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless, to be exact) so I could get more nuanced shots and capture the antics of the ball of kinetic energy that is my child.

I enjoyed becoming the family record keeper. My camera came with us everywhere, from family dinners to beach weekends, and all the memories were successfully captured like swirls in stained glass.

Then, in late 2018, my grandmother died, and those images became so much more important. She’d been to visit only a few months earlier, some of our very last memories of her. I almost forgot my camera as we were hurrying out the door for our last dinner together before she flew back home, and I’m so glad I remembered.

Those photos were some of her last. One was displayed at her funeral.

Grand Mother

Never before had it been so important to me to take stock of the photos and documents at her house. To make sure I captured them, somehow, before I never got to see them again. She and my grandfather lived such rich, full lives, and I only knew a fraction of what they’d done.

He served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II. She worked as a seamstress for Christian Dior in New York City at only 18. They traveled all over the globe and were dedicated to volunteering for charity. Had five children, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren. Married for well over fifty years. There’s so much more I’ll never know.

Just over a month later, I found out I was pregnant.

In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast. Between caring for a toddler and a particularly exhausting pregnancy, most of my free time activities went by the wayside. Looking back, 2019 will seem like a blur. My daughter was born and once again we were learning how to be parents, this time of two. I reverted back to phone photography – faster and easier. There would be time for better photos later, I thought.

Then 2020 came, and with it, a pandemic.

Article after article and op-ed after op-ed tell us we’re living through unprecedented times. Life has shifted in permanent and irrevocable ways, whether you’re a young professional, a college student, a new mother, a seasoned worker, or a retiree. Simple daily errands have turned into anxiety-inducing events that require extensive planning before they can be executed.

The days are starting to blend together.

That’s what’s really getting to me. The monotony, the sameness. Life moves madly on even though it feels like we’re at a standstill, like someone pressed a giant pause button. All of the plans we had and milestones we were meant to achieve are lost somewhere in the murky fog of the future.

Yet we still go forward. Bills still need paying. Children still grow.

Now more than ever, it feels so important to document life.

Now more than ever, it feels so important to document life. This collective experience we’re all going through, traumatic and historic, will be studied in history books. We’re right smack in the thick of it, trying to live and work and survive. It makes it difficult to form lasting memories of our fledgling family. It’s heartbreaking to know my daughter’s babyhood and the last vestiges of my son’s toddlerhood will be spent away from so many of the people who love them.

It’s so hard to watch a baby reach all her incredible first-year milestones and know that this is the last time we get to experience these things, to watch our child blossom into the world. It’s never felt more important to record every giggle, every gummy smile, every playtime and mealtime and bedtime.

Balancing life and constant anxiety leaves so little time and energy for anything. Even so, I’ve found it essential to carve out time to capture small moments as they happen. When the baby cut her first tooth, I felt an immediate overwhelming desire to break out the camera and get a few “nice” baby shots in before her smile changed forever.

Baby

The current global climate finds me often thinking of my grandmother, wondering how she would have coped with this sudden shift in the way we interact with the world. Thinking of the long-woven tapestry of her life, stitched with memories and adventures and love. I wonder if my own story will exist when I’m in my golden years, if my own children and possible grandchildren will be able to piece it together.

Will they know how we lived in 2020? The way life was before this, and the way it’ll be immediately after?

As a teenager, I got into scrapbooking with my best friend. We created dozens of pages peppered with photos from disposable cameras, ticket stubs, stickers, notes, wrappers. I don’t make physical scrapbook pages anymore, but I certainly haven’t abandoned the habit of collecting keepsakes and looking back at pictures. For me, it’s not just about keeping mementos – it’s about reliving those memories as vividly as the first time I experienced them.

I can look at a photo I took of my husband and son hiking through a state park in the spring and smell the damp soil and lush trees around us. Feel the cool air and see the clouds broken by streaks of sunlight. Hear the slap of my child’s footsteps as he ran down a muddy path.

Father

During the fog of parenthood that comes after having a newborn, I’d almost forgotten how important it is to have these images to fill the gaps when my sleep-deprived brain fails me. Especially now.

When I heard about the concept behind Rosy, I knew right away it would find its place among family record keepers. A private smart home digital assistant that stores everything from recipes and snapshots to birth certificates and financial records on a secure device that lets me maintain complete control of all of my own information? Incredible.

Rosy’s direct scanning capability and voice notation are immediately appealing, as well as her ability to build a complete family story based on the information I provide. I’m able to keep everything totally private for our family’s eyes only, or I can choose to share certain files with friends and family I select. I never have to wonder if my kids’ images are being seen by internet strangers because I always know exactly where they’re going.

2020 is the year I decided to learn to bake bread, and what a good New Year’s Resolution that turned out to be. Unfortunately, my recipes are all over the place, across dozens of food blogs, Pinterest boards, and cookbooks. I adore the idea that I can start scanning and saving them all in one central location that I can access with a simple voice command when I’m ready to bake.

It feels like we’re all waiting with bated breath to hear that everything’s okay and we can go back to the way we were. We’ll be waiting a long time, because things won’t ever be the same again. But that’s all right. Humanity has survived turmoil before, we’ll do so again. In time, we’ll hopefully be able to look back at the memories of before and cherish them as we let the past go and move on to the future.

Even as the pandemic keeps us apart, we’re lucky enough to live in a time where technology can help keep us together. We miss being able to hold our loved one’s close, but we can still share the biggest moments of our lives. If the internet is teaching us anything, it’s that life finds a way. Love unites us.

We’re going to be okay. In the meantime, I have a legacy to create.

Smiling Face

Have a story you want to share? We invite you to blog on your personal perspectives of memories, family, photography, home organization and much more. Send us a message on our Facebook page.

 

About the Author

Stephanie Wargin has been writing both personally and professionally for nearly fifteen years. She’s won both the Katherine Paterson Honor and the Next Generation Indie Book Honor for her young adult fiction. Her home is in Northern California wine country with her family and two cats. You can follow her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/sesinkhorn/.

All photos courtesy of the author.