Three Photographs

On the small table beside my bed, there are three photographs.  One of my son, age 2, standing in our breezeway with a very contemplative expression on his round, baby face, dressed in the matching Carter’s slacks and t-shirts I bought for him in those days.  He’s holding a Winnie the Pooh bear, his hand cupped around the bear’s face, and I think he’s about to capture an idea for one of the stories or drawings he used to spend endless hours creating.

There is another photo of Brian, taken about 13 years later, on his first day of high school.  It’s a tiny photo, the size listed in the school photographer’s package as “wallet”.  His face – thinner now, with definite signs of the man he will become – is still serious, although with a hint of smile.  I imagine he was nervous that day, the first day in a new place where he knows no one, does not quite fit in, is unsure just where he will be able to make any kind of mark.  I feel protective of him when I gaze at that picture, knowing as I now do that the years ahead would not be good ones for him.

There is one more photo, this one of my husband holding Magic in his arms on the dog’s first birthday, a photo we gave to my mother in law for Christmas, a photo that she kept on her bedside table until I took it out of her apartment on the day she died.

Each night before I turn out the light, these three photos are the last thing I see before I sleep.  My eyes rest on each one in turn – the baby boy, the young man, the husband, even the magical little dog – the men in my life.

And I think how lucky I am.

But I also  think about the way time passes, so swift and inexorably sure.   Those long ago days with a small boy in tow  seemed endless, filled with games and growing and hopes for the future.  The teenage years, when the boy struggled to become a man, banging his head repeatedly against the walls of his world until we all wore the marks of his bruises – well, those days seemed like a black hole from which no reprieve of light was possible.

For about 10 years life seemed to organize itself into a pattern, and I had music to keep me busy, my family was settled and  healthy, we had our home in Florida and a dream of one day spending at least winters there.  I see that now as a golden time, a time of fulfillment and solid satisfaction with life in general.

These days, I sometimes feel as if I’m standing on a moving sidewalk, stock still, gliding along in this huge global continuum while the world swirls and eddies around me.  Life, passing by me while I remain motionless, letting the winds of change bluster through at will.

Perhaps those three photographs are emblematic of my natural tendency to dwell in the past and eventually get stuck there.  How does one go about taking charge of life, grabbing hold of circumstances by the throat and shaking them until something good falls onto the ground at your feet?

Although I’m still  a bit skeptical of the whole “if you can dream it you can do it” philosophy,  perhaps it makes sense to add a fourth photograph, one that encourages a vision of the future ~ something fresh and hopeful, just for me,  to gaze upon before I close my eyes to sleep.


13 thoughts on “Three Photographs

  1. What an interesting post. It made me walk into the bedroom and look at the three photos I have on a table there: one of my mother, age nine months and looking like a cute little bundled up Eskimo baby, one of the venerable kitty Dixie Rose, and one of me – sitting in a halter top on the stern of a sailboat two days out of Kauai, heading for Alaska. I was doing my nails at the time. 😉

    Even though that photo is twenty years old, it’s as contemporary as can be. I have a pet name for it that expresses very well what I was feeling at the time – let’s just say insouciant, slightly-in-your-face, a bit nervous and absolutely open to whatever was coming. After all, I’d just thrown over a good job to go sailing. What could go wrong?

    I love looking at that photo every day, because there’s plenty in the world ready to slap down that attitude. So far, so good.

    • I can sure understand why you’d want that photo around! Having a reminder of those kinds of moments would be inspiring on those days when life kicks you where it hurts 😉

  2. Yes, Becca, I think I know exactly how you feel. Time goes beyond speed. I stare these days at a photograph of the CS on her travels, arms spread wide as the smile on her face: utter joy. And it makes my heart sing…

  3. I’m aware that I’m living my dream– the time in my life that I had always hoped for, the time when I would have my own family living together under one roof. I can almost see time passing and it scares me sometimes. I don’t think life can prepare us for how often it will change and how often we’re called to reinvent ourselves. To answer your big question here (and to be clear, I don’t have one) I think the “vision” should drive our choices and steps we make each day. Faith and action. And lots of prayer. Because there are never any guarantees. I just want my life to have a sense of meaning and purpose (and happiness) as long as I am here.

    • You wrote: “I don’t think life can prepare us for how often it will change and how often we’re called to reinvent ourselves.” That is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, and it’s been pounded home rather often in the past 10 years.

      It’s good that you recognize the rightness of the place your life is in ~ revel in that 🙂

  4. Time passes so quickly. I am trying to live in each and every moment and to do the things that I believe are the right things for me. I am looking at old photos more and more these days, and wondering how it is I got here!!

  5. Interesting post, Becca. I have two photos on my bedside table. Both are of my son and my husband together.

    The first was taken at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. My husband is sitting on a huge anchor and my son, about 12, is practically on his Dad’s back, his arms thrown around his neck – big smiles all around.

    The second was taken a year or two later on a beautiful fall day at the zoo in Washington D.C. . They’re leaning into one another, comfortable and smiling, wearing jeans and sweaters and sneakers. My husband has a camera slung over his shoulder.

    It’s funny you should ask this question. When I was dusting yesterday, I thought that perhaps I should change them out for more current photos, but I probably won’t. They both capture such fun days.

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