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Print What You Want to Preserve

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August 30, 2026
My dear child,

I can’t believe that tomorrow at this time my little girl will be a married woman. I look back on the last 24 years and I want to do it all over again. I know that can’t happen, but I do have my memories, at least.

When you were born, it was the happiest day of my life. The waiting, the wondering, the worry, the exhaustion and then, that moment when you were placed in my arms for the first time. I couldn’t stop staring at you.

Your dad and I knew that the day of your birth was the most important day of our life, and we took hundreds of pictures. We even laughed about how you would be the most photographed baby on the planet. I wish we could show you the pictures, but the computer crashed when you were around 9 months old and, well, we’d never printed any, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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The years flew by and before we knew it, it was time to start school. You were quite the proud little thing with your Dora the Explorer backpack and lunchbox. At least, I think it was Dora the Explorer; it could have been the Disney Princesses. I remember it was pink, but beyond that it’s a little hazy. We took your pictures in the driveway before you left for school, and I saved them on a CD, but the silly thing refused to open, so we had to throw it away.

The next five years seem to rush by in a whirlwind of activity: soccer games, birthday parties, field trips and just the everyday wonderfulness of being with you. You would get so frustrated with me every time I would pull out the camera and say, “Smile!” but you always ended up giving me the perfect picture.

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Even our lazy afternoons together lying on the couch or helping you with your homework — I photographed it all. I downloaded them to a hard drive (I had sworn off CDs … lesson learned) but when we moved from the old house, the box containing the hard drive was accidentally dropped and the drive shattered. I sent it in to see if the files could be recovered, but the cost was around $2000, so dad and I had to pass on that.

Do you even remember the old house? The backyard where you practiced soccer and the fort you built using the swing set? Oh, of course you don’t — not without pictures to look back on. What am I thinking?

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And then, dear one, before we knew it, high school was upon us. Every day seemed to bring a new bit of drama and excitement. I suppose that’s how high school is, though. All those sleepovers with your friends. Dad and I both looked forward to them and dreaded them because we knew you’d be up all night shrieking and laughing.

I can see the three of you now, sitting in your pajamas, doing each other’s nails and hair, watching movies, laughing about boys. Remember that one shot we took of the three of you lying on the floor, laughing so hard you were crying? It was one of my favorite images I’ve ever taken.

I told your dad that night that I wanted to remember this moment forever, so I transferred it to a brand new USB drive. And it’s a good thing it was a new one, because although it didn’t save all of them, at least we have a couple. No, they weren’t my favorites, and your eyes are closed in them, but at least I have them for posterity.

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It was around then that time started revving its engine and I knew that our time with you was coming to an end. Watching you walk down the aisle in your cap and gown to accept your diploma … I have no words to describe that moment. It felt like the all my hopes and dreams for you were coming true and all the prayers and worry and mothering had paid off.

You were so beautiful. Remember how you couldn’t decide if you should wear your hair up or down? We almost got in a fight over that, didn’t we? In the end, you decided on down. Or, was it up? It was one of the two. If I had prints, I would know for sure, but knowing the importance of the day, I uploaded all the graduation photos to an online cloud system.

Before I wrote this to you, I went to the website to relive the memories and found out, sadly, that they are no longer in business. So, I guess unless YOU remember how you wore your hair, it will have to remain a mystery.

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Oh, and grandma was in those images, too. She wasn’t doing well at the time, but she insisted on attending the graduation. Little did we know it would be the last pictures she would ever take, but I remember how she held on to you so tight. It’s funny, I said I would never forget that moment, my mom and my daughter each holding each other, but without having anything to look at, it’s kind of hard. I remember thinking it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I guess it was. Grandma always said, “Print what you want to preserve,” didn’t she? At least we still have all her childhood photos in that album.

And now, you are about to make a commitment to the love of your life. In less than 24 hours, you will be a married woman. You will start on your own adventure, and before you know it you’ll have a family of your own with which you will make the same marvelous memories.

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You will be the most beautiful bride in the whole world. After months of planning, the wedding will come together in one spectacular day. I want you to remember each and every moment, hold it in your heart and keep it for always.

And to help you with that, I’ve got my iPhone ready. Let’s hope I remember to download the images before I lose the phone, like I did last time.


Editor’s note: A big thank you to all of the creative commons photographers whose photos illustrate this piece.


Image credits: Newborn by Joshua Rappeneker, First day of school – a First Grader! by thomas pix, First day of school by Roebot, Playing with sister by Lou & Traci plus, Sleepover by Mike Hauser, Tracy High School Class of 2010 by daveparker and Squires-Smith Wedding by Ismar Badzic.