Growing up through the click of a camera

Leah Pflaum

More stories from Leah Pflaum


Photo by Marisa Valdez

It is a calm, autumn night as I sit in the hidden room under the stairs of my childhood home. 

A room meant for storage, shelter from dangerous storms and the opportunity for my siblings and I to freely draw all over the walls without the outside world knowing, it has become the place for one of my many quarter-life crises tonight. 

As I sit here in this small corner, I am surrounded by old photos of me and my family, that contain all stages of my childhood. Many questionable haircuts and outfits that did not go together, but at the time none of that mattered to me. 

It’s quite strange to think that this snot-faced gremlin in head-to-toe pink onesie with a matching hat was once me. The photo comes to us from the year 1999. What a time to be alive— for the six months I was alive then.

There is one photo in particular that sticks out to me of the plethora of family photos scattered on the floor. It is of myself, around the age of two, riding on a small, plastic tricycle and I am on the driveway outside of my grandparents old house.

I have many memories of doing that as a child. I can still feel the fresh air hitting my face and the bumps on the bottom of my feet if I walked across the driveway barefoot as it was made of pebbles and concrete.

In the mix of it all is a polaroid photo of me and my brothers when we visited Santa at my hometown’s city hall. 

If my memory is correct, the year is 2005 just a few weeks before Christmas. The only thing I remember from that day was sitting on Santa’s lap and asking for Barbie sunglasses— which I never received and am still upset about. 

I find it even more interesting to analyze the photos of my family that were taken before I was even born. There is a photo of my father from 1977 when he was about 14 and he looks so much like my little brother it made me look twice.

As I get closer to my final days here at UW-Eau Claire, I often think of the future, and how it’s so far yet so close to the present. I can never stop thinking of all the potential the future holds for me so I can never sit down and think about how far I have actually come. 

I used to think time was taking forever as I would anticipate walking across that stage, yet when I look at all these photos, I realize how quickly time is passing and I never really took a break. 

I remember when I was most excited to play the same games over and over again with my daycare friends. Now, within a few months, I’m just supposed to get a diploma and leave?

These photos that are laid out in front of me show every stage of my life from when I was only a few days old to the day I graduated high school. Clearly, I have grown and learned a lot in between those two stages, yet it’s weird knowing that both of those people are me.

If you are ever feeling like you are mentally stuck where you are and uncertain of the future, I recommend looking at old photos of yourself and your family to see how far you have come and how you were able to get to where you are.  


Pflaum can be reached at [email protected].