That Picture of Us

To say that a picture is worth a thousand words is true I suppose. But only if you’re counting all the ones that are left unsaid. The things it failed to capture and yet, were present all the same.

That picture of us that sits atop my second shelf only captured a moment. It is a mere sliver in time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

It does not tell of weathered hearts and dusty dreams… of successes or of failures… Nor promises kept and promises broken. It gives no hint toward the future or revelation of the past.

That time I made you laugh so hard you nearly choked to death is nowhere to be seen. The scar on my left wrist I got while running after you is just outside the frame.

Weekends on the water, midnight rides and long, late nights of talking are written behind our eyes but no one would ever know it — were they to pick it up and hold it. Should they ever really, really study it…

That time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

Do you remember? That image on my second shelf? It is the one collecting dust. That picture of us.

Cardboard Time Capsules

Unpacking after a move can often feel like the opening of a time capsule. There are pictures, clothing and miscellaneous items—all from another time in history—packed into boxes you long forgot existed. When you inevitably uncover them you find yourself transported back to that moment… that week… that summer… that period in your life when things were vastly different.

Perhaps they were better times, perhaps they were worse. Perhaps you are overcome with feelings of nostalgia, joy, surprise, grief or even relief that you are now sitting exactly where you are sitting at this particular moment in time. No matter the emotions that may wash over you, one thing will almost always be certain: Life looks different than you thought it would back then.

This week Lee brought in some boxes from the garage where we are still storing and sorting through my things. One of them contained a photo album, several envelopes with loose photos and a few cards and letters. He asked if he could look at the album and of course I said yes as I pulled my chair along side his in order to get a good look myself.

It was an album I put together of the summers I’d spent working on a dude ranch in Colorado during college. I was happy to see that although the photos were nearly 17 years old, I didn’t look radically different than I do today… minus a few laugh lines and crows feet. But the thing that struck me the most was the fact that Life hadn’t really touched me yet. In those images, Life and Circumstance had yet to ruffle my youthful feathers. Or trip me up and skin my knees.

Back then I operated under the naive assumption that the worst that could happen was a bad hair day, a rained-out horseback ride, accidentally calling a guest by the wrong name or a few broken dishes. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. Though I wouldn’t trade my then child-like idealism and ambition for anything. I would learn soon enough that the world wasn’t fair and sometimes bad things happen no matter how hard you work to avoid them.

We all do, eventually.

After we got done looking at the album and he got up and turned his attention to something else, I lingered over that box of photos and letters—this cardboard time capsule—and I looked at more images of times when I was younger, thinner, prettier, tanned and toned. And honestly, the thoughts and feelings they conjured up have been tumbling around in my head for days. Only now are they coming out through my fingers on the keyboard as I share this with you.

Truth be told I envy that girl and yet I remember that EVEN SHE occasionally thought (waaaay back then) that she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or good enough… yet. She thought that ONE day—when she was older—she would come into her own and everything would be perfect. Everything would be just as it should be.

Well, here she is. Here I am. That “one day” has arrived and you know what? I’ve decided after peering inside of my time capsule, that since I can’t go back and fix her unattainable aspiration for perfection… I can fix mine. I can live in THIS moment, enjoying all that I have right now, promising to always try and stay present. But most of all… no matter how many more time capsules I uncover in this lifetime… to stay grateful for all that has been and currently is.

Waters of Change

A young mother in faded rolled-up jeans, is resting on a flat, wet rock. Feet buried in the depths of the cool brook, the summer sun dances on her golden hair as water rushes swiftly by. Two small girls with pudgy bare feet and equally golden hair cautiously wade in the waters around her making their way to her out-stretched hand. She is holding something small in the center of her palm and her daughters inch closer and closer to inspect the curious find.

It is a priceless moment that my father captured on film. A rare opportunity to freeze time. The young mother is my mother and the girls, my sister and me, no doubt on a mid-summer family adventure. I can’t recall it specifically, and yet I swear I can hear the water gurgling around me and feel the chill of it lapping at my ankles. The rocks beneath my tiny toes are moss-covered and smooth… and I haven’t a care in the world.

If I had to guess, I’d say the year was probably 1977 and my mom was younger than I am now. Every time I stop and take time to look closely at the photo, I marvel at my mother’s youth and beauty. And I gaze in awe at the two innocent and precious little girls, sheltered from pain, suffering, disappointment, heartbreak and the weight of responsibility. All of those things are out there waiting in the not-so-distant future. Looking back now, knowing what I know, I might have frozen time right then and there.

But the pages on the calendar fly as the years pass by and time has its not-so-friendly-way with us. Experiences etch their marks—forever transforming us into the people we are becoming. Nothing stays the same, its true. But if we look closely through the veil of time—we might still recognize the remnants of what once was. The goodness and the innocence, the curiosity and pure unbridled passion for all things fun! Today I occasionally catch glimpses of the barefoot girls with the golden hair… knee-deep in what I now know to be the rushing waters of change. And although our outward images are constantly being altered by the passage of time—like the rocks beneath a rapid, endless current—I am grateful for all we have managed to hold onto despite the years. Easy smiles and hearty laughs, curious spirits… and hope in tomorrow.