Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Little Guy came with me to pick up veggies from the CSA today; the drop-off is in the park up the street. He pushed the granny cart; I walked the dog. Little Guy clanged the cart down the bluestone sidewalk, and at one point I turned around to watch him. I saw his head bobbing along at just so much above the handle of the cart, and had a flash memory of Eldest at that age. And I thought: when she was his age, I was pregnant with him.

Back then, I thought of her as my big kid. And now he's my little one.

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It's possible I have the least photo-documented family in the country. I am not good at remembering to take pictures. Then, too, stopping to take a photo or video has always seemed to me to detract from being in the moment; my savoring is better done through all-out absorption.

I know this is culturally abnormal, so don't feel I'm criticizing you because I'm photo-feeble.

Every now and then I feel bad about my lack of photo-taking, not for my sake, but for my kids'. Then I remember that it doesn't take all that many pictures to fill a scrapbook. And who wants to sift through thousands of pictures, anyway?

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Last month a high school friend died. We hadn't stayed in touch much, partly because I'm bad about things like that, partly because we didn't live near each other, and partly because I find it awkward to stay in touch with married men who are not my husband. The last time I saw Perry was at my wedding. The time before that was at his. 

Our parents, however, stayed in touch over the years, and so from time to time I heard snippets of news. I emailed Perry once or twice, and last month I spent most of a day traveling -- subway, train, taxi, and back -- to another state for the viewing.

In the lobby of the church there were posterboards of photos of Perry. I saw a picture of him tossing a baby into the air, laughing. There was a photo of him as a coach, and another surrounded by his kids when they were little, and another of him standing proudly next to his daughter, who was dressed up for what I assume was her prom. And I thought, Ah, yes -- I'm glad he knew these little joys. I am glad these scenes were part of his life. 

They were not the sum of it. But we can't sum up a life with pictures, no matter how hard we try. We can only live life, and treasure it, and provide ourselves with occasional reminders of how much we have to be thankful for.

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My mom gave me a scrapbook when I graduated from high school. I am truly lousy at keepsake-keeping, and because a scrapbook was something I never would have made for myself, it was a great gift. I still pull it out once a year or so and flip through it. 

Near the back of the book is a photo of Perry and me about to cut a cake at our confirmation party, in 8th or 9th grade. There is also, alongside the program from our high school graduation, a dried rose stapled to a little card. The card reads, "To a great friend, on one of the greatest days of our lives." 

I'm glad for the photo, because it triggers a dozen memories. I'm grateful for the rose, because it tells me Perry valued our friendship as much as I did. But mostly I'm glad Perry was part of my life, glad for the light that was him, a light that has stayed in my heart all these decades.

That kind of light can't be captured in pictures. I don't think it is meant to be captured at all, though surely we want to grasp it and hold it tight. But it shines. Oh, it shines.

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