Every Thursday social media outlets are flooded with pictures tagged #TBT. Throwback Thursday. People love posting old photos ripe with bad bangs, bad outfits, and worse poses.
In the spare room of my childhood home, memories are overflowing from unlabeled shoe boxes. Here you’ll find photos of grandma looking lean, her hair dark brown instead of gray. There are photos of me and my older brothers dressed as Ninja Turtles, and more photos than I’m willing to admit of me shirtless in our living room. Think more tomboy, less Girls Gone Wild, please.
Some of my favorites are of my parents. My dad in full afro and mustache, my mom looking beautiful with long wavy brown hair. These pictures are all novelty, Polaroid snaps that are fading with the passing years.
We have some videos, too. Shot with giant camcorders and recorded on VHS tapes. My niece and nephew love watching their dad, aunt, and uncle on the TV screen. They’ve spent many summer afternoons laughing at the way I danced in my diaper or their dad’s big front teeth.
I recently realized how lucky I am that my parents captured my childhood. I’m grateful every time I think about watching my McDonald’s birthday parties or another Christmas with too many presents. My parents selflessly captured years of my life while neglecting their own.
As much as I love watching things from my own life that I was too young to permanently capture, what I really love is seeing my parents. I love when they slip into the screen to lift me out of my high chair or help my brother unwrap the first bit of his birthday present. I love seeing and hearing them before I really knew them.
People love the quote, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But like a lot of quotes that people latch onto, it’s outdated. A picture can show someone laughing, but it can’t capture a sense of humor. It can show you and your siblings standing side by side, but it can’t playback the conversations you had or your voices before age changed you into adults. What would you rather have, the faded photo of your suntanned bellies sticking out from life jackets on your family’s annual canoe trip, or a two-minute video of your whole family sharing canned cheese and crackers, playing catch in the muddy water.
We’re the first generation that is fully able to capture everything. We have iPhones and GoPro’s. We have computers with massive storage and video files that take up only megabytes of space. Our camcorders fit nicely into our pocket instead of on our shoulders.
My boyfriend Alex and I have started recording moments. Not just big moments, but examples of our daily lives. We want to show more than our beach vacation or the trip we took to Napa. We want to be able to remember the way our dog acted when we saw her for the first time in three weeks, or the dance moves his parents busted out in a fiercely competitive beer pong match. It’s a million little things that remind us what we did last Tuesday and the way we felt on our first successful skateboard ride.
In this way, we’re committing to remembering. Remembering the roadside stops when the sun splashed into a mural of colors, or the Halloween night when we stayed in and had a party with our parents. It’s for ourselves, of course, but it’s also for our grandchildren. So they can see how we lived before our hair was gray, and how we loved every minute of the life we created.
You already have the tools you need to create memories that walk and talk. It takes ten seconds to record one clip a day, that you can put with hundreds of other clips to make a movie of your life. Because #TBT Polaroid snaps look cool, but I’d give anything to see the way my dad used to look at my mom when her hair was long and wavy and I was still years away from shirtless Christmas mornings.

Amber Dowler

Hi, I'm Amber. I am a traveling TEFL teacher, amateur skateboarder, and puppy gazer. I'm a vegetarian, but I'm dating a hot hunk of meat, and we have a beautiful rescue puppy together named Rafiki. I've called many places home, but nothing compares to the Midwest. You can follow me on my blog at http://smellslikeamericanspirit.com/ but please don't follow me around the airport because I never dress nicely for flights and the TSA takes any odd behavior pretty seriously these days.