Electronic Treasures, column for Feb. 28, 2012

He’s studying the image in the camera’s viewfinder (that’s been turned to face him) trying to make sense of what he sees. Suddenly, he gets it: It’s him!
A smile crinkles the corners of his mouth and lights a spark in his eyes. Shaking his head, he hoots “Woo-ooo!”
And then, for the next 30 seconds, my 18-month-old grandson, hams it up for the camera, making faces, waving his arms, jabbering away in a language all his own.
That video of Randy is stored on my computer, along with dozens of others, plus Lord only knows how many photos. And that’s not even counting all the pictures I keep on my phone.
I carry them all with me whenever I travel and look at them often, sometimes several times a day. Somehow I can’t quite seem to get my fill.
I wish you could see them.
One of my favorites features Henry, my grandson, almost 6 months old, sitting on his mama’s knee, belly laughing at the antics of his two dogs. It’s hard to say who laughs harder, Henry or his mama or his nana.
There’s one of Randy dunking a basketball; Henry nuzzling his blankie; Randy climbing in the dog crate with his two enormous Labs; Henry swatting the zebra on his gym mobile; Randy playing drums with his dad; Henry slurping milk from an eyedropper after his mama went back to work and he refused to take a bottle from his dad.
Each of those images captures for me a precious, fleeting moment I would have missed, if someone _ my daughter and her husband, or my son and his wife _ had not cared enough to record it and send it to me.
Those moments show up on my phone or my computer several times a day _ little bursts of electronic happiness that let me feel somehow more connected to my children and grandchildren 500 miles away.
Some people fear, with good reason, that email and text messaging will replace handwritten correspondence.
I hope they are wrong. I love handwritten letters. I seldom take time to write one, but I do love the rare occasion when someone sends one to me.
However, given a choice between e-communication and no communication at all, I will gladly take “e” every time.
My children grew up 3,000 miles from my parents. Sending photos was a lengthy ordeal. I had to: 1) buy film for the camera; 2) clean up the kids and make them sit still long enough to shoot their pictures; 3) take the film to the drugstore to get it developed; 4) go back to pick it up, sort through the photos to find a few decent shots and order extra prints; 5) pick up the extras, stuff them in envelopes (marked “Photos, do not bend!”) and put them in the mail _ one set for each of my parents who were divorced and didn’t share.
It could take weeks or months. Back-to-school shots arrived in Christmas cards; Easter basket pictures were mailed by July. But they always called, my mother and dad, to thank me for sending them. I guess, with grandchildren, even an outdated photo is better than none at all.
Imagine my surprise, after my parents were gone, to find they had kept every photo, every card or letter I had ever sent them.
Yesterday my husband downloaded to my computer some photos of Charlotte, his granddaughter, who is one day older than Henry. I especially liked the one of her lying on the grass wearing rabbit ears.
I’ll save those photos with the others of Randy and Henry. I’ll copy them on disks in case, God forbid, my computer crashes.
Maybe someday when I’m gone, they’ll find them _ along with hundreds of handwritten cards and letters they’ll have sent to me over the years. And they will know they were loved.


  1. I can really relate to this article about preserving pictures! Oral history, in my case, has taken on an increasing importance and I save it generally as a video interview on DVD. Everyone has interesting life stories and they may just live right next to you (or even WITH you)! Please don’t miss opportunities to listen to what people have to say, take pictures, take videos and you will be awed by what wisdom you will learn from “ordinary” people. And it will be preserved long after they have gone.

  2. Marian Nelson (Ginny's "bookie" friend) says

    Dear Sharon,
    I’ve loved your columns for many reasons, for many years, but this one makes my cry. My tears are for the loss of my 30 year old grandson, Chris Rudolph, who was one of the 3 skiers lost in the avalanche in Washington State last week. I too spend hours looking at those baby and growing up pictures, and can’t believe I’ll never see him again. Treasure those babies and remind their parents how precious those pictures may be one day.
    Marian Rudolph Nelson

    • Sharon Randall says

      Marian, thank you for that lovely, heartbreaking note. I am so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful grandson. My heart and my prayers go out to you and your family. I will take your wise advice to treasure my loved ones all the more. Please know that I wish you God’s grace and peace, and many wonderful memories _ Sharon

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