We’d finished supper, wiped the table, and loaded lingering plates into the dishwasher. My brothers and I dressed in our jammies to carry bowls of popcorn to the basement where we waited while Dad loaded the projector with slides.
Neighbors knocked, hugged my mom, poured cold beer or soda into fizzing glasses, and came downstairs.
We’d stretch out on the shag carpet, our parents and their friends on couches behind us, smiling at reddish photos projected onto a basement screen in the 70’s.
“Remember the morning you dropped the last sausage into the fire?” we’d giggle.
“Yeah! Dad was so mad because I ate the other two, figuring there weren’t enough for everybody anymore,” my brother said.
We Remember the Past as We Smile and Cry at Photos
Years later, I smile at photos of me in my jammies and remember dimmed lights and slide shows of Dinosaur National Park, and campgrounds in Glenwood Canyon with sausages lost to a morning campfire and a brother’s hungry mouth.
I miss those basement slideshows, although there’s something nice about being able to share photos on our phones at the bus stop of a recent trip to the beach.
I see this photo, and feel the lingering ache in my shoulders and thumbs from rowing.
I vow to lift more, to run more. I want to be more. This photo makes me feel strong, although I am less strong than I once was.
I see harder-to-control drooping flesh, and remember deepening laugh lines covered in sunscreen and a hat. The moment, captured by camera, is one I’ll never forget, but there’s something in seeing the evidence of a perfect moment that reminds us of how our feet were uncomfortable in the boat, how beauty breathed in let out the annoyance of silly things.
This photo reminds me that I was at peace, even while I worried about bumping kayaks, getting too close to the ponies, my son getting a sunburn, me getting more wrinkles…
This photo reminds me that while there were 1,001 thoughts in my head about bumping kayaks and wrinkles and sunburn, that for a few moments, all of those thoughts were forgotten, marveling at wild ponies, right there in front of us.
There are some photos I cry over, even while smiling.
Ones that leave a Chief-shaped hole in my home and myself, even as I’m thankful for the hours in the sun and the snow that we had with him.
Some photos steal heartbeats for a moment as I remember intense grief and levity. Seeing a picture with somebody who is now only a memory brings me to the second in time when we were laughing, or fighting, or enduring. The grief and levity come back to my heart where they’ve always been, although they’ve been dulled by living and more recent events.
There’s something about smiling and crying at photos that hones in specific moments.
When I think about the first moment I held my son, I remember general feelings.
Amazement, gratitude, contentment.
But when I see a photo of myself holding him for the first time, I’m there, and while I remember general feelings, I also remember the weight of him against me.
The scent of his head, and how tiny his face was. The feel of his little fingers wrapped around mine.
The wonder of his content, so fresh into the air. I smell hospital food that I was too hungry to not eat at 2am.
The worry and asking a nurse how I’d know when my milk had come in. “Honey, you’ll know,” she said, and I wondered whether I would.
The day it came in, staring at myself in the mirror, thinking “OH.” Those first days of breastfeeding, of my husband wondering whether my boob was too big for our son. Flipping him off, myself off, and figuring it out in spite of ourselves.
Knowing more about my baby. Knowing more about myself.
I flip through photos, see a ball pit, and remember a forgotten conversation with a friend. I haven’t spoken to her, in much too long. I send an email, thankful for the reminder that photos give me.
It’s easy to get caught up in the days and the moments, and the rushing to swim team, the bus stop, and keeping ahead of hunger with meals that aren’t awful.
Here’s to each of us remembering the past as we smile and cry at photos. Most especially, the ones that make us laugh, smile, or cry.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. Tonight’s sentence, one which I thought was like “OK LAZY time!” (and then wasn’t but is) is “When I look at this photo, I feel…”