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From babyhood to boyhood, annotated | Chuck's World


Last updated 2/11/2021 at 10:16am

I’ve been getting reminders for a week now, digital nudges from different apps and websites, letting me know that I took a lot of pictures seven years ago.

This is in contrast to the past year, during which I’ve mostly taken photos of shopping lists and roof damage, along with the occasional funny face that the cat makes. There’s been nothing interesting to point a camera at, and I say that with love, but it’s true. No one in this household is posing, and I’m including the cat.

I watched a Canadian science-fiction series recently, speeding through three seasons on Netflix because it was interesting and I’m bored. The premise of the show suggested that future civilizations would have access to virtually unlimited data about personal lives in this century, gleaned from traffic cameras and security footage, social media, and personal electronic devices.

That wasn’t the point of the show, just a plot device, although it was compelling to think about. We’ve been hearing about identity theft and other downsides to the digital age for years now, and I hope we’ve been listening, but there was something logical and inevitable about this.

I imagine that if humanity survives another few centuries, future digital archeologists will be grateful for the glimpses of 21st-century life, but it’s still a little disconcerting. Even those of us who are cautious about our online privacy are scattering stray data points willy-nilly like bread crumbs in the forest, pointing the way to personal information.

Voicemails, text messages, GPS data, CCTV footage, emails, shopping history, travel history, job history – eventually it’s all just history, and assuming it disappears by pressing the delete key is probably unwise.

But photos are special to us, and their permanence is baked into the definition of photography. Extrapolating a bit, in a couple of years humanity will have collectively stored 10 trillion photographs online, which works out to around 1,200 for each of us (I already have more than my share, maybe half of which are of airport parking stalls).

So I wonder about 2020, and pandemic photos.

I’ve certainly seen my share of disturbing ones, of friends and family looking reckless in the era of isolation, but for the most part I’ve seen far fewer. The people I pay attention to seem to have had the same pandemic as I have, so I’ve mostly missed out on vacation and travel photos, celebrations, concerts, and so on.

Cats are always good subjects, but not always willing. Our shutters stay closed.

For the most part, anyway. I took a photo the other day of a coiled piece of string that for a moment I thought was a giant spider. I think you had to be there, and I assume that it in a few years I’ll get one of those “Remember This Day!” alerts and be very confused.

That’s what happened this week, by the way. The algorithms got very excited, and began reminding me relentlessly that February 2014 was special. And I have the pictures to prove it.

You might have been reminded of that time, too, over this past Super Bowl weekend. As Tom Brady got a seventh championship, some of us remembered that we got one of those, once. Following the 2013 season, the Seahawks won their first and only Super Bowl on Feb. 2, 2014. I was there.

No, not there. Sorry. I was in Texas. But I remember.

Sports were weird this year, and NFL football was the weirdest. I really didn’t expect the season to be completed, and it’s a remarkable thing that it was, but it felt distant and dispassionate. I usually follow the Seahawks closely, and I suppose I did this season, but my heart wasn’t in it. I became a cardboard cutout fan, two-dimensional and passive.

Not so in 2013. It was an exciting year personally, and football was just the icing, but it was fun to watch the home team win a lot of games and lurch toward East Rutherford, New Jersey, for their big moment. Richard Sherman tipped away a Colin Kaepernick pass in the end zone, and I looked at the calendar.

I already had a plane ticket to Texas, having nothing to do with the Super Bowl or Seahawks. It was my third trip in four months, all centered on the birth of my grandson in early autumn, and I don’t need to explain any further.

Sports weren’t really on my mind, although I did spend 15 minutes searching through Seahawks jerseys until I found one suitable for a tiny human.

Those are the photos that pop up to remind me, unnecessary but nice. There he is, an infant clad in blue and green, sitting on my lap as his parents host a small Super Bowl party. I was the only one who cared who won and it would have been fine if we hadn’t, but we did and it was a bonus to a season of joy having nothing to do with football.

I made this kid laugh for the first time on that trip, and I can see it in the photos. It’s a familiar smile now, one I see every day on our Zoom calls.

I make him laugh, and if you’d told me in 2014 that when he was 7 years old, we’d be having a daily video chat for at least an hour, I would have thought, of course we do.


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