Photographs are lacking as a younger grownup

Every now and then I scroll back through the camera roll on my phone.

I have dozens of photos of flowers. (I’m not a great gardener, but if you take a close-up portrait photo, even a weed can look stunning.)

I have hundreds of pictures of my daughter dancing. Not to mention videos.

And our cat? An embarrassing amount of space is devoted to His Highness.

And yes, there are even a few shots of my husband and I, mostly at family events.

Before the iPhone, I have boxes of photos from our early family life. Dozens of snapshots of our eldest daughter as a baby. Look, she smiled! She rolled over! Wait, here’s an outfit she’s never worn – get the camera!

Further back, my husband and I have some carefully preserved black and white photos from our early childhood. I’ve yellowed a couple of dozen from high school. (What about color photos from the 1970s?)

Do you know what i don’t have Photos of me as a young adult. It is as if I left earth in 1979 and returned 14 years later as a bride in champagne-colored silk. (What all photographers say is true: wedding photos are a good investment.)

I don’t have any photos of my husband (boyfriend at the time) and me at Graffiti, the late-night, great Pittsburgh music venue that we visited weekly in the late 1980s.

No photos of my first car, my beloved, if not entirely reliable, 1974 Fiat.

Worse still: no photos of my first apartment. I don’t have a single picture of this tiny Pittsburgh studio with a Murphy bed sticking out of the wall. I loved this bed. I loved the black and white tiled bathroom from the early 1900s. I loved – most of all – to have my own place.

These memories only exist in my head. And maybe that’s okay. Because when I close my eyes, I can still conjure up the slightly musty smell of the Murphy bed.

I can feel the two china pegs on the old-fashioned sink and how you had to slide your hands back and forth to get the right balance between hot and cold water, and how easy it was to get scalded if you lingered on it for too long hot side.

I can hear the rattle of the radiator pipes and the slightly muffled sound of “How will the wolf survive?” Listen. from Los Lobos coming from my neighbor’s stereo across the hall. (An album, by the way, that I later loved on my own. Not so much when it kept me up at night.)

When I think about these things, I am reminded that our past lives exist in all senses, not just in photos. This third floor climb – and the happy season it represents – can be mine if I immerse myself in my memories.

But I still wish I had a snapshot of that cute black and white bathroom.

Charlotte is a columnist for The Times. You can reach her at

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