memory keeping

A twinge in the heart

From Mad Men, Season One, Episode 13, "The Wheel" © 2007 Lions Gate Television, Inc.

"…in Greek, nostalgia literally means, the pain from an old wound. It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone."

What is memory keeping if not a means of manufacturing nostalgia? A way of inducing that painfully sweet ache that happens when we see evidence of a moment we once lived but can never revisit.

A twinge in the heart.

Memory keeping is a celebration of a moment that has passed. And as memory keepers we are eternally nostalgic, longing to preserve the ephemeral, to hold onto a second even as we live it. To stretch each inhale until fills the entirety of our lungs, until we are bursting, unable to hold onto the moment any longer.


For we know that as each moment—each year, each decade—passes, it will be replaced by something else entirely. Something that may look similar, but remains altogether different. And that difference can only truly seen when we pause to capture it—to write it down, to document it—as it fleets by.


We are time travelers, each of us. Our cameras, our writing, our albums, our photobooks, our slideshows, our bins of baby clothes…all of it…are transformative machines:

"This device isn't a spaceship. It's a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again…. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again... to a place where we know we are loved."

If you are the guardian of your family's memories. If you are the time machine's captain, take the helm. Be proud. You are doing important work. No one has to say thank you. No one has to get it. Not now. Some day they will. They will know what you could see that they couldn't, when they were only staring forward at big bright futures—futures filled with endless imaginary outcomes not-yet tampered by results—you were a magician seeing the future, past, and present at the same time. And you hit pause. You clicked the shutter. You stopped time.

One day, you may not be there to see it…but, one day, they will journey back. And they will be so grateful for any piece of that time machine they can grab onto and use to sail back home again.