Friday, November 8, 2013

Thirteen Years

What you see is this: leaves on the ground and on the trees, brilliant fall colors that would seem impossible if you hadn't observed them yourself, blinking once or twice to verify. A plastic picnic table of the Little Tikes variety. A chain-link fence to separate the preschool's playground from the rest of the university. And three people: a young mother and father crouching next to a very little boy whose hand rests comfortably on his dad's chest. That hand says, "He is mine. They are mine. I am theirs."

The boy's life will shudder and heave in a year or two when he becomes a big brother and refuses to speak to his mother for days to punish her betrayal. But all of that sturm und drang is yet to come.

It is the child's third birthday, and his parents have brought cake to share among the boy's classmates. An older mother (her boy is a friend of the birthday boy, and also her youngest child, the youngest of three) offers to snap a few photos of the event. "You will want these later," she says, and her tone is authoritative. The young mother is dismayed. She did not dress for pictures. Her hair has been restyled by a brisk October wind. She keeps forgetting to lose those extra pounds. Mentally she frames her regretful no-thank-you, but the other mother's gaze is fierce and long, and under its sway she can only nod her assent.

A few months later she opens an envelope and finds the photos from her son's birthday. Absently she shuffles through them and puts them aside.

Until that birthday boy is sixteen years old, and most everything has changed, except for the yellows, reds, and oranges of the October trees. The preschool has been razed. The family is now a family of four, not three. It's been a long time since the birthday boy felt as if he were the only sun about which his parents orbited.

As for the photographer's prelude ("You will want these later," a mere five words), years gone by have shaped it into prophecy: truth, guileless as a newborn, in each and every photo.

Small revelations abound.

You will want these later.





7 comments:

De said...

How wonderful to live these lessons, and to share them with others. I had seen this photo on your timeline the other day, so I had the image in my head even before scrolling down and I knew how beautifully vibrant you all are in the photo. Like the autumn foliage: breathtaking and ephemeral.

Emily said...

She was right. I wish there were someone snapping pictures of all the moments I want to preserve in amber.

Nicole said...

So sweet, and that lady was RIGHT.

Patois42 said...

Gorgeously told.

alejna said...

I loved this so much. It makes me a little weepy right now.

That mother was totally right. It is a wonderful photo, capturing such a sweet moment. (Oh, the little hand!) And all 3 of you look so beautiful.

Veronica said...

So many surprises and revelations when we delve into old photos.

Christine said...

And now I feel teary. I also feel compelled to pull out the old photo albums. "You will want these later." Yes.