Wednesday, May 18, 2016

24 Frames

Prom season just passed and I’ve never seen so many beautiful young people in sparkling dresses dotting the rural landscape posing in front of cleaned up cars.
At least, not since last year’s prom.

The saturation of prom photos on Facebook (this is not a complaint, I truly enjoy seeing the photos) had me reminiscing just a bit about the days of old when I was one of those young kids in a sparkly dress moving more with the likeness of a newborn calf walking on ice than a beauty queen. The good old days…of which I have no desire to go back.

Something has disappeared since I was young and impressionable (ha!) and I believe the disappearance of this fundamental venture has created a generation that is missing out on a lesson in patience. Today we demand:
Faster connections
Promised promotions
Instant success and gratification

What did we have to do that today’s young adults know nothing about?

Wait at least an hour 
to get film developed into photos.

I remember Wal-Mart being the first morning-after stop following any dance, event or special occasion. We would gather the cameras – disposable or not – and take them to the back of the megastore for development.
Then we would wait.
Wait to see how many turned out.
Wait to see if the dress fit like you hoped.
Wait to see if the photo with so-and-so is a keeper.
Wait to see how that little glimpse of your life unfolded, in 24 frames. 

There were a few benefits to film development that go far beyond having proof for your grandkids that you did exist:

Momma always kept film in the second kitchen drawer. Each time she loaded a new roll into the camera, she’d stand in the kitchen, face south, and click a couple photos until she was sure the film was loaded properly. Inevitably, after waiting at the very least an hour to flip through the stack of hot-off-the-press photos, the first two (four if we got doubles) would be of the oven. There were always 24 frames on a role of film; 22 after Momma took her obligatory oven pictures. Can life be remembered in 24 frames? Definitely, if you make your days count.
Lesson: Days are not disposable. They are to be built upon, used with purpose and enjoyed. Do not squander them thinking you have another roll in the second drawer. The older you get, the faster the roll ticks down: 5-4-3… You can’t re-shoot and film over the bad parts. What you “shoot” today, you’ll have to view tomorrow. Or, whenever Wal-Mart says your photos are ready.

I had a childhood friend that had a hard time keeping her eyes open once the disposable flash fired. Without fail, the bright lights made her squint, squirm and blink. It was obviously a natural reaction. Do you know what we did with this friend during field trips, dances, special events and last-day-of-school photos shoots? We included her. With the understanding that she would look like a smiley sleeping person standing up, we included her in every one of our photos. It was her trademark move, though she wanted so desperately to not be that person.
Lesson: Include others and recognize all of the uniqueness they bring to your circle.
And let it be known: Blinky went on to have the most beautiful senior photos of our entire class. Gorgeous, really.

I have a friend who lost a dear family member unexpectedly just weeks ago. In an effort to preserve the man’s memory, my friend has begun sorting through film negatives to make prints of photos of years gone by. The man left behind a 10-year-old son; the photos will help preserve a legacy that perhaps the son doesn’t yet understand. Thank God they kept the negatives. Today we keep photos around just long enough to 1) post online or 2) delete when digital storage gets low. But we forget about the power that lies in the negatives. The negatives – thin strips of exposed film - can be used over and over again, like life’s teachable moments.
Lesson: When we view the negatives as lessons, we can gain multiple uses from one frame: learn from it, keep it around, and come back to them when needed.

We live in a time where everyone wants a quick turn-around.  
Instant results.
Fast changes.
The ability to know if things “turn out”.
The digital age has done that to us.

While these things are signs of the time, proof of advancements and forward-thinking, there is also great value in thinking back to the things that taught us lessons while we actually waited in line with great anticipation.

Sometimes, even, with bobbypins still in our hair.

This is part one of two. 
Come visit next Wednesday to get the rest of the story, would ya?


  1. Back in my day you had to wait until the pictures were mailed out (postal) to be developed in some special development factory and sent back -- days, not hours :-) Looking forward to next week!

    1. Now I can honestly say I don't remember that! How in the world did you wait so long?! :) Thanks for reading.