You never feel older than when you’re talking to a young person and trying to explain how things were “back in your day”. I remember being a child and having my mother tell me that when she was my age, TV was only in black and white and then thinking, “How is that even possible? She must be sooooo old!”
Now I have the perspective of age to understand how quickly things can change. Of course, her real message was that we should be grateful for what we had instead of asking for more. But at the time…
I’ve recently started learning what it’s like to be on the other end of that conversation, and I don’t like it.
I don’t like it one little bit.
“Can I borrow your camera?” Big Brother asks me.
I think for a moment. He’s careful and responsible, unlikely to do anything that would damage it, and giving it to him just about guarantees me fifteen minutes of peace. “Sure,” I say, and hand over my trusty Nikon.
Ten minutes later, he’s back. “Look at the pictures I took!” he says excitedly.
He’s taken 129 photos.
Most of them are of the wall. Or the ceiling. Or half of his own face.
As I flick through them he starts giggling. “There’s a funny one coming up,” he says. I click-click-click my way through blurry close-ups of individual toys and photos of his feet before I finally come to the “funny” one. It’s a close-up of the back of Little Brother’s head.
In frustration I say, “You don’t have to take photos of everything. If you stop and think about what you’d like a picture of, you’ll have a lot more nice photos at the end. Then I can print them out for you. Photos should be special.”
Big Brother looks at me with all the condescension of a teenager. “It’s okay,” he says. “You can just delete the ones you don’t want.”
I pause, searching for words to try to explain that deleting them isn’t the point. (Although, quite frankly, I’m not sure what the point is.) Big Brother has already moved on. “Can you take a photo of me?”
He strikes an amusing pose and waits. I sigh, point and click the camera, and wait. Big Brother is back at my side in an instant. “Let me see, let me see, let me see!”
Finally, it’s too much. My cool is gone. “Just be patient,” I say. Then words I never thought I’d say come out of my mouth. ”When I was your age, we didn’t have the option of seeing pictures straight after we took them. We’d take 24 photos, and then take the camera to a shop to have them printed before we could see any of them.” I paused, letting my words sink in. ”Sometimes it would take weeks, or even months, before we could get to see the photos we’d taken.”
Big Brother looked at me seriously, absently chewing on his lip as he considered my words. Then he nodded slowly. I allowed myself a moment of hope.
“Was that when there were dinosaurs alive?”
Sometimes, my boy, it really feels like it.