Do you know what a rabbit hole is? I don’t mean the literal kind that furry varmints make, but the figurative kind? Like Alice venturing to Wonderland, we take an innocent look into something, only to tumble down, down, down into a curiously long and unexpected situation. And, like Alice, “never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”
My friend Beckett and I have always called this experience “falling into a rabbit hole” and we aren’t alone in that. However, recent casual research tells me that not everyone is aware of the term, although the experience is fairly universal.
For Beckett and me, this happens when we’re researching historical women, veer off the established biography track and find ourselves in, say, the bizarre world of 18th century medical techniques. Quite frankly, I would take smoking caterpillars, smiling cats and card queens over some of those “cures.” (Although the mad hatters are in that land of deadly drugs, dangerous theories and poor sanitation: The syndrome occurred because of a chemical used in hat making.)
Regardless of the land where we land, falling into the rabbit hole isn’t the problem, climbing out of them is.
I was in one the other day. There were no bottles marked “Drink me;” and no cakes tagged “Eat me,” it was just me, a fuzzy blanket, fluffy socks and a fever. The latter made the whole experience Alice-esque with a fuzzy, dizzy dream-like quality around the edges.
I had made it through the whole winter with nothing but a little cold. This being a totally a brag-worthy situation, I was patting myself on the back for this feat one day… and woke up with my face flushed and chills racing through my body the next.
I set up camp on the couch, lied to myself that I would get up after this one nap…then lied again. I sipped tepid tea and scrolled through Netflix, but a photo above the TV caught my eye. It was of me and my then 6-year-old daughter, Bekah, in 2002. She was wearing her Daisy Girl Scout uniform and sitting on my lap at a tea party the troop threw for parents.
I pass this photo every day, but rarely see it. I wondered what other sweet memories I was missing and let my eye wander as far as it could see without getting out of my cocoon.
I saw lots of photos of the distant past, but not a lot of the near past. Most photos post 2009 are on my phone or stored in a couple digital clouds. I can scroll through them anytime, but when was the last time I did? When was the last time I hauled out a physical photo album?
When was the last time I put pictures in one?
The answer to all three questions: long enough that I can’t remember.
I got up from the couch and tumbled into a rabbit hole through a bookshelf portal. I adventured through all the albums on that shelf, then explored my phone then the two cloud storage locations that we use.
It was a long journey, but I finally emerged from the rabbit hole mid scroll of Google Photos when I dozed off. I woke up and relived my adventure in Photo Albumland. It was contradictory combination of vague and sharp recollections; people who are still alive and ones who are not; emotions of anxiety and excitement, of being happy or sad a long time ago.
The visit was shrouded in a heavy feeling of anger and disappointment with myself for not putting actual photos into albums in recent years. The memories in photos will only live if someone else falls down their rabbit hole.
Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history and historical media recap podcasts that she and Beckett host or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.