I have family home videos of my siblings and me running around our back yard in short sleeves on Christmas Eve. The summers can be brutal, but weather is definitely one of the reasons I love North Carolina.
I went to boarding school in the mountains of western Massachusetts, where the winters were bitter and unforgiving. After spending graduate school in upstate New York at Syracuse University, with lake-effect snow and overcast skies, I promised myself I would never live north of my home state.
Last week, I was rewarded with a gorgeous 70-degree November weekend. Thank you, Universe, for affirming my good judgment.
I took full advantage of warmth.
I put the kids’ bikes in the trunk, and we drove downtown for a spin on the American Tobacco Trail. The plan was to ride bikes up Blackwell Street then make a beeline to Forest Hills Park for a nature walk.
As I parked the car and loaded the kids onto their bikes, I was hit with a twinge of nostalgia. They looked so cute with their little helmets and unbridled enthusiasm.
It reminded me of my family home videos.
When I was growing up, my parents didn’t own a camcorder. Every Christmas, my dad rented a large camera, which recorded directly to a VHS tape mounted on its side. Many of our early home videos resembled what I was seeing on this November morning: tiny siblings in adorable outfits, enjoying warm Durham winters with their daddy.
I decided that the moment needed to be captured. I fumbled through my jacket pocket looking for my phone, quietly thankful that VHS was no longer the technology for logging brown faces in the family archive.
The kids were completely prepared for their photo op. They stopped, struck a pose, cheesed and kept it moving. After thumbing through pictures, I picked the cutest one and texted it to my wife, parents and in-laws.
Then, something odd happened. My phone asked if I wanted to “share” the photo. If it had asked if I wanted to circulate the photo in a public forum, my answer would have been “no” but it used the calculated word “share” – a loaded term, which elicits a feeling of guilt.
Who doesn’t want to share?
It’s one of the first thing we learn how to do. I’m constantly badgering my kids about the value of sharing. Why wouldn’t I want to share this beautiful photo, this beautiful day, this beautiful moment, with the world? I clicked “yes” and forgot about my dilemma until an hour later.
The kids got hungry so we decided to grab fruit cups and cheddar biscuits at Parker and Otis. We biked back to the car and were soon driving down South Duke street, when a glimmer caught my eye. The sun was reflecting off a huge tuba in Orchard Park, right across the street from the house where I grew up. We decided to take a detour to find out what was up.
My friends, musicians George Tisdale and Donald Parker III, were doing a photo shoot in the park with photographer and manga enthusiast Ricky Leung. It was a small-town moment.
On a beautiful day, you’re liable to run into folks that you know. It’s one of the things I love about living in a smaller community like Durham.
Shortly after we arrived at the park, I ran into my former next-door neighbors, Ben and Lillian Spiller.
“Aren’t you three supposed to be at the American Tobacco Trail?” they queried. I paused.
How did they know we were just at American Tobacco trail? It took me a minute to remember that I had just posted our morning activities on Facebook.
It caught me off guard. For some reason, it hadn’t clicked (no pun intended) that everything I “share” on social networks is public domain. I’m inviting everyone – thousands of friends, family and neighbors – and even some colleagues, acquaintances and strangers – into my daily routine. It makes Durham, already a small city, feel even smaller.
When I logged on to Facebook, the picture had garnered more than 60 “likes”. My personal archive, my family’s VHS moment, was now a part of a shared experience. Beyond the digital resonance, it connected me to neighbors in the Durham community, whom I hadn’t seen in months.
And that made me smile. Contact Pierce Freelon at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Durhamite
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