If you walk into my parents house, the first thing you’ll notice is a couple of cats, one because he’s invading all of your personal space, the other because she’s trying to kill you. For real. They have this sort of this good kitty/bad kitty thing going on and it’s terribly confusing.
Next, as you step carefully around outstretched claws, you’ll notice the memories. Moments in time captured in frames, life seen by my father behind a thin plate of glass, hung on the walls throughout the house. In the hallway, up the stairs, over the couch, around the dinner table. Walk into the office and you’ll discover shelves of thick, tattered photo albums, cataloguing years of adventures, experiences, four tiny babies growing into adorable little kids, morphing into super awkward teenagers, becoming fantastically stunning adults (I’m obviously biased).
My father quietly documented our lives since before I can remember. Often, my sister Tessa and I would spend hours cuddled up on the couch, flipping through albums, exchanging short stories about favorite polaroids, snaps in time. We spent hours with the younger versions of ourselves, growing up before our very own eyes, like a weird flip book, every awkward stage caught on camera, visual clues working with fuzzy memories to piece together the backstories of our lives. We dove deep into life’s cache, filling in blanks long forgotten or perhaps never really known. We’d argue over if it were her or me in the cute baby photo, yodeling for our mother to solve the mystery. She’d pass through the living room carrying laundry, glance briefly at the photo and deliver the ultimate shocker, “That’s your brother.”
It’s hard to say if I remember my childhood so vividly because of actual memories, or because of my thorough and frequent review of captured time.
Do I truly remember the huge brown Manitowoc house we rented, the one with the giant two story wrap around porch, huge yard and circle driveway, complete with a plastic rocking horse that housed bees in the hollow handle, one which stung the crap out of me? Or do I remember a picture of that exact same scene with my mom retelling a story of the time I got stung by the bee? Can I possibly recall the farm I was born on so well because of my impeccable four-year-old memory, or because day in and day out, I stared at a large wooden barn-shaped frame surrounding a beautiful aerial photo of that same cozy farm, complete with tiny dotted cows munching on grass by the forest in the corner?
Time is funny and the mind is tricky. For someone who struggles in the memory department, I’m just grateful I have a past to look back on. I loved our little library of memories so much, my senior year of high school I decided to started my own. I bound my first interpretation of Time in a soft green album, representative of my high school colors, the DCE Evergreens. Over the next two years, I carefully collected my college memories in some version of Badger Red. But if you were to walk into my home office today, to the shelves that hold my memories, you’d notice the photo albums abruptly stop.
That marks the day the world digitalized. I no longer had to print photos to see them, to store them, to remember. They lived on screens, on phones, on computers, forever on the internet. Like, forever, forever. I robbed my photo albums the rights to their sequel as iPhoto, Facebook and Instagram easily, cheaply, conveniently quenched my nostalgic thirst. Why flip when you can scroll? For free? Anywhere? Everywhere?
Fast forward to Fall of 2011 when I bought my own house. I painted the walls with vibrant colors, updated outdated appliances, kicked up the lighting, cleaned the floors, replaced dingy curtains. But no matter how much I scrubbed, brightened, updated…something was missing. That winter I walked through the door of my parent’s house searching for the missing ingredient. I wandered slowly down the hallways, fingering the framed photos of my nieces and nephews, old senior pictures and that ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE family photo from what had to be the 80s, so unfortunately forever captured in time. I passed the glory days of my brother’s professional motorcycle career, walked through scenes from family road trips out west, explored the Arctic, Africa, and the Boundary Waters, artfully narrated by my dad. The walls were full of whispers, telling tales with every step, like Harry Potter, roaming the halls of Hogwarts.
This house was alive.
I rounded the corner, walked into the office and pulled out my favorite photo album, the white one with the little house stenciled on it, just barely keeping it together. I slowly turned the big plastic pages, carefully freeing cherished 4×6 pieces of life from the thin sheets. I could almost hear them cheering.
For months I had been pumping artificial life into my house instead of letting it breathe on its own. Now, each step I take upstairs is a journey through foreign lands, as framed maps of countries traveled dot the walls. When I reach the landing, I’m embraced by tiny pockets of life, from the freed family photo polaroids, to my sister’s wedding, the faces of my dogs in Finland, to standing on top of Katahdin. In the center of it all is a clock. Time surrounded by Memories. One cannot truly exist without the other.
So when Framebridge contacted me to collaborate, it was sort of creepy. How could they possibly know how much framed Life meant to me? We’re like, the perfect fit. As I browsed their website, I was also reminded my own walls needed some major updating; most of my framed photos depict life circa 2012. And a lot has happened in the past four years.
As a concept, Framebridge is legit awesome, and I say this not only because I got a few frames on the house, but because I actually mean it. I am obsessed with how easy it is to frame, well, anything. Pictures stored on your computer, on Instagram, that concert poster where you met your boyfriend, long forgotten diplomas you’re still paying for, the exact outfit you were wearing when the Cubs finally made it to the World Series, actual art. My first stroll through the website with my shopping cart resulted in a couple thousands of dollars of product. Because I wanted one of everything. But since I’m about to spend five unpaid months hiking from Mexico to Canada, I was able to convince myself 66 framed photos weren’t necessary…for now.
I had to narrow my focus. Since Instagram was my first “big break” I decided to frame a bunch of Insta snaps from my Quit Your Day Job European adventure, mini stories to fill in the gaps between frames on my map wall. You can upload photos right from your computer or Instagram and preview your image with the dozens of frame and mat options available, which is both super convenient and totally necessary. As a person who has spent hours perusing the aisle of Target, Hobby Lobby and TJ MAXX to find the perfect classier-than-it-costs frame, I feel very qualified in saying it’s terribly difficult to enclose memories in way that accurately reflects your interpretation of time.
After you narrow 66 frames to a more reasonable number, Framebridge will print, frame, and send. For free. (Shipping, that is.) And when they arrive, it’s like Christmas morning. I have never seen anything more perfectly protected than these frames. I was a little worried about the photo quality, coming from Instagram, but they turned out even better than I had hoped. The ability to preview your photos with each frame proved invaluable, it’s like I reached into my computer screen and was holding the final product in my hand. No surprises.
Well, some surprises. I notice all the little things; seriously, I judge a restaurant based on the quality of toilet paper they have in their bathroom. And Framebridge thought of everything. Each frame comes with a little card with how to clean and hang, complete with the appropriate sized hardware to hang your specific piece. All you need is a hammer – literally. And my absolute favorite part? Two little felt circles on the bottom corners of the frame so the picture doesn’t scratch the wall, or jut out in all the wrong ways. My order even contained a legit handwritten Thank You. If Framebridge were a restaurant, they’d have some top notch toilet paper.
The whole process was just so easy. And fun. And a delightful trip down memory lane. All those memories hiding underneath the cover of your laptop, inside the walls of the web, tucked into tiny phones, up in the cloud are just waiting to be freed. So fill in those gaps. Surround yourself with the people you love, the journeys you’ve lived. Inspire yourself to get out and do more. Let your house breathe on its own.
Or better yet, help breathe life into someone else’s house. Recently I took a photo of my friend’s daughter in a sunflower field just loving life. Her father-in-law asked if he could print and frame to give to his wife for her birthday. I was flattered, but more impressed by his gift of choice. Just one picture can tell so many different stories for a lifetime. And memories make perfect gifts. (Especially when you get 15% off your first order – I suggest making it a big one: Just use this link to Framebridge and enter the code: OTHERFORK15 )
Though seriously, on my next parental visit I may or may not accidentally knock that horrendous family photo from the wall, pre-braces me with the huge pink glasses, bangs bump, 80s color-block-see through-sleeves-silk-shirt, and blame it on the murderous cat.
Because absolutely no one needs to hear that story.