Monday, January 18, 2010

Bookends, photographs and memories

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you

Short and sweet. Deep and beautiful. Bookends are defined as heavy, often decorative, objects placed at either end of a row of books on a shelf or table, to hold them upright.

I guess what the song is trying to say is memories are like bookends. They hold us upright, keep us sane, keep us together, and sometimes memories are the only thing we have left of people, of a place, of a certain time in history. And pictures and photographs make memories clearer, more vivid, and bring them to life. What good is a photograph to you if it doesn’t hold memories? It becomes just another picture floating around in the world, in cyberspace. It becomes as meaningless to you as it does to a stranger.

Simon & Garfunkel released the album Bookends on April 3 1968, almost 42 years ago. Back in the days before digital cameras and photo sharing and before anyone can click a photograph with his or her mobile phone. Back then each photograph was taken with care, with love, and they were precious and treasured. Go through old photos of your parents and you could see for yourself. You may laugh at the funny poses and the serious faces, but take yourself back to those times. They don’t get photographed every hour like we do, and so they make the most of every opportunity they get. Sit with your girlfriend, put your arm around her, and look to the distance as if you dread the day you will be parted. A family picture? Make sure everyone is present - children, parents, uncles, cousins, grandparents, even a neighbour who happens to be around.  A group photo is often accompanied by a banner or something declaring the time and the occasion and who the people were. And if you take a look at the back of those old black and white photos most of the time you would find the place and date and names of the people who appeared in the picture.

I love going through the black and white photos of my parents. And I love the old fashioned album in which they are stored, you know the kind where each photo is held in place at its four corners by triangular wedges of stiff golden paper, and a delicate soft white paper is inserted between the pages to prevent the photos from sticking together. And seeing your uncles and aunts in their youth make you realise they are more than the cranky old people they are now. They were young once just like you and me, and enjoyed their lives as best as they could.

Preserve your photographs and your memories; they may be all you have left someday.


  1. Right, I always enjoyed to go through an old photo album... it's nice to preserve some memories. But there are some I wanted to forget...

    P.S. Our taste of music must be same.. like this song.. and 'Sound of Silence' sang by them.. :-)

  2. One of my favourites is Kathy's Song -

    And so you see I have come to doubt
    All that I once held as true
    I stand alone without beliefs
    The only truth I know is you.


  3. I've never heard it before. The wording is beautiful, let me download it.

  4. Never knew what bookends were, though I've listened to the song many a time. Thanks.
    Here is one of my fav S & G song which is additional lyrics to The Boxer.
    'The years are rolling past me
    Theyre rocky even lean
    And I'm getting older than I once was
    Younger than I'll be, that's not unusual
    Oh Yes its true, after changes upon changes we are more or less the same'

  5. dr_feelgood - The Boxer is always an all-time favourite. but I never knew about the additional lyrics, thanks for sharing. Those are beautiful lyrics. I immediately googled it, and look what I found -

    The melody of the instrumental break was Art Garfunkel's idea. Paul Simon liked it so much that he used it on the record in favour of an extra verse he had written and occasionally sings live.

  6. The conclusion is a real snatch of sanity.

  7. heheh mesjay life often snatches away our sanity from us