How Full a Memory

I sat and studied faces and photographs for hours today. I smiled, though I imagine my smile was not the same as the one I turn on when the camera is aimed my way.

When your picture is being taken, how do you rearrange your face? Smile brighter, or dial it back a notch? Tilt your head? Raise your chin? Secretly wish, as I do, that the person holding the camera had never pointed it your direction?

My favorite shots are candid, and one of the reasons I named the blog Candid Calliope.

(Oh, to live life unposed.)

It is always hard as the person holding the camera to get your subjects to cooperate. I try to take a shot of my son reading, and he wants to pose, to smile, to shine, when what I want is that wrinkle between his eyes when he is concentrating, a shot stamped in time of how I see him everyday.

There really isn’t a way to be an invisible photographer, still as one might stand.

A memory in motion stops in its tracks when a camera is pulled out. We find ourselves folding up a little, into poses we figure might represent us best.

How can we overcome that? Keep shooting, I guess. Shoot until the click of the shutter melds with the rhythm of the conversation, until it is only punctuation in the rise and fall of the laughter. And there, in the composition of the memory, a single shot just might reflect the truest shade of that moment.

My prompt for this week’s photograph is “memory.” (For more on Project 52, see You, at the Beginning)

I can interpret this many ways, but the prompt led me to luxuriate in the looking of photographs both old and not so much.

Moments and memories stacked on top of each other, stored in my phone, at the ready when I need a smile,


or tucked into cracking albums, from a time when film was a premium and we had to be satisfied with the meager meal of memory rationed out into twenty-four or thirty-six bites.

family 1983

I love the moments and memories with honest smiles aimed not at me, pushing the button, but at someone else, at the moment itself.


I have memories of the days I took pictures.

When I shot for week 6 of my Project 52 (On a Shelf) I stood out in whipping-wind cold, my eyes watering so that I could barely see to focus the lens. I had to wait for my hands to warm feeling back into the fingers before I could scroll through and see what shot I was able to get.

A Frame for the Kneeling was a post about the paradox of wanting to take pictures but not wanting to miss a moment in doing so. The song I played on repeat as I wrote that post ran through my head for the rest of the summer, each time I rode my bike. (The rhythm seems to match well the pace at which I pedal.)

Then there are moments, memories, that are sudden, and special, and it is a day like any other day, but

Oh, how my heart is warmed.

And it is a click for the keeping.


A shadow hangs heavy over my memories of last year, a cloud that dims the bright spots. Depression will be the first thing that comes to mind when I think of it, following me around like a needy dog, always at my heel as I try to look up and into the task at hand. It trips me up even today.

But these small squares of life are evidence of the fullness of my days, when my memory wanes and all I can recall is the empty.

There was music, including a trip to New York City. That rockstar at the piano with Chloe is writing a musical, and I was lucky enough to watch as a corner of this massive undertaking unfolded.

There was a deep conviction of my own need to create as I pedaled my old bicycle, drinking in each sight, letting the poetry of my surroundings propel me.

Moments between the ones I managed to capture, like our friend so gently wiping Chloe’s face as she smiled up into his.

It’s the pictures that insulate when the cold tries to reach in and steal the warmth of memory.

Scrolling through, I can remember,

and give thanks.


4 thoughts on “How Full a Memory”

  1. This is such a musical post, Allison….by that I mean, it’s almost like I was humming along with the words, a quiet and contemplative rhythm that had me thinking, smiling, remembering. The picture of you and Kim and your folks is how I remember you both, still-the age, the faces. So long ago, and yet how beautiful it is that while the memory as such hasn’t faded, new memories are being formed through this blog as I get to learn more about you now. Terrific writing. XOXO-Kasey

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