Tag Archives: Baltimore

In Defense of the Selfie

So I promise you this post isn’t trying to piggyback off the success(?) of ABC’s new show, but hey, if it gets me traffic, who am I to complain?

There are tons of arguments out there against selfies.  That they add to our society’s narcissism.  That people are taking them at really inappropriate times.  And this might be a fair assessment, but I look at it this way:  if someone wants to find a way to express themselves, they’re going to.  This generation’s way of doing it is selfies.  And it’s not like we haven’t done this before (Polaroid selfies ftw).

But today, I write in defense of the selfie.  And this is why.

For my parents’ twentieth anniversary, I thought it would be nice to get twenty pictures of them from throughout their marriage to put into a matted picture frame.  My parents’ anniversary was in mid-December, so I had to find a day when my brother and I were home and they were out to go through photos and pick out the best ones.  It was a hurried affair, as we didn’t have much time before they got home, so I didn’t notice the size of the pile as I went through.  I pretty much just threw anything aside that might vaguely count, figuring I’d go through them later after they went to bed.

Wait, did I say “pile”?  I really meant a complete lack of pile.

In the 20 years of marriage my parents had had prior to that point, there were 16 pictures.  I’m not including any formal Olan Mills’ family shots.  I mean candids and home photos.

Sixteen.

But why?  Why would there be so few?  My parents were together constantly.  Neither traveled much for work (Dad had the occasional Navy TEMDU, but that was about it), and nearly both always went on vacation together.  You’d think there would be more photographic evidence of their marriage.  My mom has had a beautiful film SLR my whole life and was the photographer of the family.  I had just been through bags and bags of old photos and found a mere 16.

Mom always took the pictures in the family.  The few pictures of my mom separately from my dad were from the random times he would grab the camera to make sure there was at least one picture of Mom from our trip (usually so my grandparents could see it).  There are lots of pictures of me/Mom/bro and me/Dad/bro, but very few of the four of us together.

Now, I’m sure if I went to my aunts and uncles, I could have found many more photos.  But in my parents’ personal collection, in twenty years, there were so few pictures chronicling their life together.

I’d give anything to have some ridiculous pictures of my parents in their 20s and early 30s.

So why write this post, and why now?  I just sent on a seven day road trip with my partner from Blacksburg, VA to Boston, MA.  Seven days together is an eternity when you’re in a long distance relationship (He’s in SoCal; I’m in SoVa).  When you have so few moments together throughout a year, everything suddenly becomes more important.  So yes, I have pictures of our food, of that horribly amazing round of Cards Against Humanity that Rando Cardrissian won, of our family and friends.

And of course, of us.

Are most selfies ridiculous wastes of “film”?  Probably (thank G-d I didn’t have to spend money to develop these).  Exhibits A-D:

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Then, there are the ones that your mother gets pissed at you for:

Okay, so she *may* have a point...

Okay, so she *may* have a point…

But then, when you get it right, it makes her so happy:

You're pretty gorgeous too, Mom!

You’re pretty gorgeous too, Mom! Also, my screenshot skills are really poor.

Yeah, we’re (and by “we” I mean those of us lucky enough to have cell phones…) taking more photos these days.  Front-facing cameras and the fact that you don’t have to pay to develop film mean we’re photodocumenting our lives at a much larger rate of speed.  But I hope that when my kids (G-d willing) are going through old photos, whether it be for my 50th birthday or my retirement from teaching at the ripe old age of 80, they will have evidence of a happy life, full of friends, family, and love.

So if the selfie is the only way I can take a picture with my partner near the Robin Williams memorial in the Boston Public Gardens:

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Or during one of my best friend’s wedding reception:

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Then, I’m going to do it.  And when I go through the photos with someone else, I’ll have a story I can put with each photo.  A snippet of a memory, captured in pixels (or if I can actually get myself to CVS, ink!).

So I stand firmly in support of the selfie.  Selfies, you’re alright.

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“Grandma’s House”

When you’re a military brat (and I’m sure in many other kinds of childhoods, too), home is an ephemeral concept.  I could say to you “I’m so excited to be going home this weekend!” and unless there have been other context clues in the conversation, that could mean any number of cities (or states!).   But for me, my true home is Grandma’s house.

I’ve written other posts from the house in Brooklyn (MD) but never a post about the house in Brooklyn.  For me, this house will always be Grandma’s house, even though my aunt has lived here now for at least seven years.

Thanks, Google Maps! Oh hey, there's my brother's car!

Thanks, Google Maps! Oh hey, there’s my brother’s car!

It’s honestly nothing that special to the trained eye.  A rancher in Brooklyn Park, MD.  Full basement.  Sizable yard, good porch, driveway but no garage.  But for me, it’s home more than any other place.

It hasn’t always been “Grandma’s house.”  My (great-great-great?)-uncle Charlie (pronounced Chah-lie if you’re from Balmer – R’s usually belong only at the end of words) built it in (according to Zillow) 1964.  When his wife died, he asked my great-grandparents to move in with him (he was really old.  Like 90s) and help him keep up the house.  When he died, the house became theirs.

So I guess, for my aunt, uncle, and father, this house, too, for a time, was “Grandma’s house.”

When my great-grandmother died, my great-grandfather asked my grandparents to move in with him.  When he died, the house became theirs.  Noticing a theme?

I enter this house’s life a few years before my great-grandfather (Pop-Pop) died.  Some of my earliest memories involve eating strawberries at the kitchen table (the table that is now in my own apartment) and sneaking him 5th Avenue bars out of the fridge (if I could nab two without getting caught, I got to eat the second one.  What a good Pop-Pop).

After my great-grandfather died, my grandparents remained in the house.  The house became known in my head as “Gramma and Grampa’s house.”  It was the house where everyone came for holidays and birthdays.  I have vivid memories of spreading out newspaper on the kitchen table and 15 people cramming around a table that normally sat 6 to eat blue crabs.  Christmases were in the living room with every chair in the house dragged in so we could open presents.

It’s the house where my name is pronounced “Hally” (O’s don’t exist in Balmerese.  If you want a good laugh, get me to pronounce “Orange”).  Where “Oh my gaaaaaaad” can mean anything from surprise to empathy.  Where if something amazing happened, someone would yell out “Hot dog!”

I slept in the bed in “Grandma’s room” the night before my flight out to California last thursday  It hasn’t been Grandma’s room in nearly eight years, and the bed in there now certainly isn’t the one I jumped up and down on as a kid when the adults weren’t looking.  The bed promptly broke… and I had to frantically help my cousins put it back together (and by help, I mean play lookout).

My aunt moved back in sometime after my grandfather died (again… common theme) in 2001, and around 2007, my grandmother had to move into a home.  It’s really my aunt’s house now, but it’s almost impossible for me to think of it that way.  And I think that’s the case for my cousins too.  Cousin E. asked my aunt if I was staying with her that night or in “Grandma’s room.”  That’s what got me thinking about writing this post.

Another early memory is sleeping in my pop-up playpen in my grandmother’s room.  It was a special treat instead of sleeping in the “middle bedroom” with my parents.  And then later, sneaking episodes of Sliders and Boy Meets World with my older cousins when my parents had deemed me “too young” to watch such things.  I better not mention all the Ren and Stimpy…  My dad reads these posts.

I’m heading back to Baltimore today from Orange County.  Landing at 1:05 a.m. EDT, so I’m sure I’ll want to do nothing but sleep once I get back.  And as with many other trips and stays, my aunt is picking me up at BWI and taking me home.  Home to Grandma’s house.