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February 28, 2012

Kodak is stopping production of its film photography division. For us of a certain age, this ennui-filled news follows the heels of Polaroid ending its participation in its 2D recording business.

Beyond the nostalgia for Reggie bars, Captain Kangaroo and moral certainty, these endings bring back echoes of a time of deferred gratification.

Even the one minute wait between taking a Polaroid and pulling off the plastic cover and washing the face with the foam wand filled with delightfully “fragrant” stabilizing chemicals (or in later years, just watching the image materialize in front of you) heightened the magic of frozen time, “Hunger is the best sauce,” said R. Eden.

But nostalgia is a two-way street. Unlike today when your phone can take 1000 pictures and Face Book can have ten times that many, the universality of frozen history makes its presence cheap.

It is now expected that every aspect of our lives has some sort of two-dimensional documentation – rather than the extraordinary focus that my father put on it – involving four 250 watt bulbs hot enough to keep several dozen hamburgers warm for days, focusing on his 3 children who were in their “Sunday Best,” smiling amongst the terror of his inevitable explosion of anger at either our insufficient attention or the inevitable failure of his high priced equipment to deliver the easy operation that he had fantasized about.

But beyond these larger distinctions between instant gratification and ritual imposed anticipation, there is the reality of anyone who is a third (or fourth or fifth or sixth) child in an era when taking pictures was not an effortless, almost free act.

As all “latter day” children like me know, the first borns got enormous photo coverage, the second child got some and, of course, after that, coverage was limited to events versus the miracle of just having a child.

This may seem like sour grapes, but it is merely the byproduct of another reality that the typical benign neglect of the Greatest Generation’s mode of parenting offspring that is now reciprocally over-focused on our spawn by my own generation. Beyond the classic sense of Boomer devotion to Mad Men, this parenting mode, or at least my parent’s mode has consequences.

As I look around my house, I see dozens of photographs of our children and even my wife and I on different occasions, but I realized, quite sadly today, that there isn’t a single photograph of either of my parents anywhere on our walls or shelves, or most sadly, in my own mind.

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