So I began imagining what I'd like to go back in time to retrieve or relive or repair. Did I imagine reliving those ecstatic milliseconds when I first laid eyes on each of my babies? Or did I want to retrieve a few extra moments of summer when I was a kid when there was nothing to worry about except mosquitos and sun burns? Did I want to go back and correct my major gaffes from college? Or prevent some painful mistake that can't be unmade, some words that can't be unsaid or some bell that can't be un-rung?
No. None of the above. Strangely, I imagined going back to the early part of 2012 (yes just 3 years ago) in order to retrieve the pictures of my Baja California sailing trip before they were mysteriously deleted from my iPhoto. I had 176 pictures from the spring of 2010 when I was pregnant with Julia and we made this once-in-a-lifetime journey; I came home from that trip more pregnant than when I'd left and \ I spent the rest of the year gestating, giving birth, and caring for an infant, therefore I never did much with my pictures except put them on Flickr. Last summer, I went to look for them again and discovered they were gone (they were deleted from Flickr, too). They were digitally wiped completely off the face of the earth never to be seen again. Even - ironically - Apple's Time Machine could not retrieve what was lost.
Using my time travel to get some pictures is - obviously - a failure of imagination (which has become a chronic problem for me, I'm learning). Perhaps someone less fixated on loss than me might have had their priorities in line enough to imagine going back to the actual sailing trip itself. Now there's an idea.
Time travel would allow me to relive the smallest details of that once-in-a-lifetime trip ... like that moment when I stood on the front of the boat and did yoga in the dim light of the clear night. Or to that moment when Sergio finished slicing a mango in its peel and splayed it out so the square straight edges of each piece jutted out into the bright sun. Or the day we went for a swim off the side of the boat or the day we all hunkered down in our berths because the waves made us nauseous. Or that day we took the tiny boat to land to eat at a restaurant and got soaked in the process. Or that moment when we found the barbed or serrated, double-edged tooth of some sea creature and Sergio held it up so I could take a picture while he invited us all to imagine how painful it would be to get this tooth stuck in our arm (thanks, Sergio). Or to that moment when we came back to land and I took the longest, most luxurious shower of my life after having taken nothing but a few 60-second showers here and there over the course of 5 days.
But lest we think I'm totally short sighted in asking the time traveling genie to get me back my pictures (mixing metaphors - sorry), let's consider this. Consider that by using my time travel to retrieve pictures of my trip, I was - in essence - asking the genie for more wishes. Because what do I do when I look at pictures? I go back. Whether it's the picture of my kids from last night when they were being memorably cute or a picture of me as a child doing something I don't even remember doing, it's always going back. It's always a retrieval process of some sort.
After wishing to have my Baja California pictures back, I began to treat that sailing trip as a forever lost thing. But I decided to change my stripes when I realized that some of my most favorite moments from that trip were never even photographed - doing yoga in the moonlight for example - and I remembered, as my wise mother would say, that it's not a forever lost thing; it's a forever gained thing.
Indeed so many of the things I most want to remember in life are not only not photographed, they are unphotographable. Like the smell of my grandmother's roses. Or like sneaking up to the crib late at night in the dark and quietly reaching in to put my outstretched finger into my baby's loosely furled fist and feeling the soft warm palm of her hand while she squeezes her fingers around my finger and stays deeply asleep.
There are no pictures of that. But it is mine. And I time travel to it all the time.