Mama Madison: A picture is worth...

Film may be dying, but long live the print

I always get a little wistful upon hearing that a favorite retailer or brand is going out of business. When I learned of the shuttering of all Borders last year, I felt nothing but sympathy for the future generation of neighborhood parents. Where, if not the children's section and coffee shop of the near west side location, would they while away the pre-pre-school hours, as I so often did, on a freezing February day?

And the liquidation of Filene's Basement outlets last month marked the end of an era for this markdown maven. It was the place, after all, "Where Bargains Were Born." Perhaps the one bit of bright side to the discounter's demise was my son's ability to score a mannequin for twenty-five bucks on the store's last day of operation in downtown Chicago. His dad and I had no idea he'd always dreamed of owning a department store fixture.

But there was something about the announcement of the Kodak Company's potential bankruptcy last week that got me feeling particularly nostalgic.

It was a reminder that my parents had recorded just about every memory of my youth on Kodak paper. Those photos, chronicling every birthday, holiday and my big theatrical break playing "Sweet Besty From Pike" in the 4th grade musical are still stored in cookie tins in my mom's apartment. And while yellowing a bit, they are just waiting to be touched, organized, and sifted through whenever my kids and I go to visit her. Trust me, there is nothing more entertaining for children than seeing their mother at age 9, sporting a 70s shag and looking horribly uncomfortable in pioneer attire.

But I am clearly part of the problem that led to the film giant's demise. Because those few "Kodak" moments I do have of my kids' childhoods are stored on my computer or phone. I don't think I've actually printed a photo since 2008. I don't even own a real camera. And this makes me wonder how my middle-school son might explain, for instance, the ubiquitous "Beiber" haircut of his youth to his kids someday, if not through tactile photographic proof?

Sure, I have a few albums stored in the attic that display my baby's first smiles, steps and forays into solids, but other than that, Facebook is my historian. And yes, Facebook's timeline is a lot easier to master than the fine art of scrapbooking, not to mention clutter-friendly in a small home. But I can't help but feel that it's a bit wrong for a social media site and "cloud" somewhere to be fully taking the place of printed memories.

So if nothing else, the impending loss of the Kodak brand reminds me that it might be worth getting a few images of my children's childhood committed to paper. Because it's one thing to post on Twitter about my son's joy in walking down Michigan Avenue carrying a nude plastic torso--unquestionably his highlight of Winter Break 2011. But it's fully another to honor the moment in Filene's Basement where they first met through an actual 4 X 6 photograph.

And with that, I am off to Photo Express.

So, RIP Filene's and Kodak; you will be missed. But I thank you for the memories...and Manny, the mannequin.

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