My in-laws live in a small north Texas town. When we visit them, I love to browse the
junk stores antique stores that line Main Street. One of the things that I find morbidly fascinating are the personal photographs that end up in these places.
I can spend all afternoon looking through a box of pictures of anonymous faces frozen in perpetual youth. Sometimes the picture will bear the imprimatur of a studio from some far away place. Sometimes a bit of personal information is hand written in antique script on the back – David, Age 3, 1941. And then I wonder about David in his little sailor suit with his fat little colorized rosy cheeks. What was his life like? Was he always as happy as he looked in the photo? Did he grow up and find someone to love? How did his picture end up here? In a dusty wooden box along side photos of complete strangers? How does it come to this? And then I imagine David’s mother showing anyone who couldn’t get away the picture of her adorable boy in his sailor suit.
The other day as I sat at my desk sending out a recent photo of my little boy in his sailor suit to aunts and uncles and friends, David’s mother came to mind. I tried to wrap my mind around the montage of victories and tragedies that must have played out in her lifetime all within the blink of an eye. The brevity of life settled upon me like a crushing weight and my heart raced as though I were running for my life, trying to beat some invisible clock. I felt as though I were about to be overtaken by a tsunami and washed out into the sea of the forgotten where everyone goes when no one remembers them anymore, when all that is left of your life is an unmarked photograph in an unremarkable wooden box.
I looked at the picture of Sean and a sense of peace and gratitude replaced the panic. I asked God to bless my little boy with someone to love when he grows up, because in this life, that is the best you can hope for.
Then I turned the picture over and wrote, Sean, Age 2, 2006.