On my desk is a snap shot of our family taken when the children were little.  It is a slice of our life; a husband and wife sitting side-by-side, arms wrapped around three tow-headed children, caught in a torrent of silliness and giggles. 

The snapshot has followed me to every work space I’ve occupied since 1991.  It is a little crumpled and full of thumb tack holes, and the colors are not as bright as they once were.  But when I’m feeling closed in and pressured, I can be transported to a happier time just by looking at it.  A time when life was as simple as getting dinner on the table by five-thirty.  A time of reciting spelling words and bringing cupcakes with pink icing to school for a bake sale.  A time when tears could be kissed away, birthday candles were blown out in one breath, and sleepy little eyes drooped before eight o’clock.

It is interesting to me how much we like to revisit those days when life was simpler.  When my siblings and I get together, we often reminisce about the days when we were children.  We recall stories and fill in the details of each others’ spotty memories.  For a brief moment, we turn back time to the dog eared photos of our own youth.

Why is it that time colors our memory in a rosy haze?  Certainly there were dark days then too.  But when we reminisce, we are flooded with reruns of happy times. We remember days of bare feet and softball games in the field across the street. We remember the smell of snow dripping from woolen mittens on a cast iron radiator.  We remember the scent of new dolls at Christmas, homemade soup simmering on the gas stove, and the jetty at low tide on an August afternoon.  These memories are like fine wine whose flavor mellows and becomes more complex with age.

But lest I lose myself in the first snapshot, also on my desk is another photograph. This one is in black and white.  The same three children are adults in this picture.   They stand together under a steel and concrete bridge on a barren winter night. Although the darkness and backlighting creates mystery and intrigue, their eyes betray them.  A hint of a smile.  A spark of excitement in the eyes.  It is as if a secret joke is shared among the three. 

I think the joke is on me.  The adults in this photograph know that the best was not in their past, but it is today that they celebrate and tomorrow where their hopes lie in wait.  They see glimpses of valleys and deserts through which they will travel. They know there will be winters when the snow blurs their goals and their hearts barely beat because of the cold. They know they will struggle to reach the apex of their dreams, and sometimes they will fail.  But they know there will be success too.  Halcyon moments that burn so blindingly bright they can barely open their eyes.  Days of golden sunlight that melt into pools of deep contented sighs.   They will experience love so deep that they cannot stand to hold it and cannot stand to let it go, and heartbreak so cruel that they bleed tears that are deeper than their bones.  That is the stuff of life.  The future’s never ending tide will roll new waves over them as it has me and as it will their children.

There is a reason for two snapshots.  We need both- to be grounded in the past and to be catapulted into the future, and balance is the key.  For as much as the past glows in rosy sepia, the future is brilliant and vivid and electric.  Don’t forget your camera!

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1 Comment

  1. polly

     /  April 14, 2010

    So beautiful – it made me cry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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