March 1, 2010

Fleeting Childhood

There's something so strange about pictures.  I mean, I definitely don't understand how cameras work, so therein is enough Why is the Sky Blue mystery to keep my gears huffing and puffing.  But even beyond the technology of taking (and successfully getting) a picture is the idea that we want to grab a sight out of the air and make it last.  I did this, I saw her, he was there, we were all together. We take a picture of good stuff.  The couple who just got engaged, a pie with a nice, even, brown, crispy crust.  I take pictures of my house all the time (when it's clean).  But once upon a time, when pictures were not nearly so abundant and accessible and editable, they were a big deal, weren't they?  You didn't take a picture of the foam on a perfect latte.  Pictures were planned and taken on purpose.  One try.  You tried for the good stuff, of course, but at the end of the day, you got what was there.  

When we were kids, this is how it was.  You get one shot in front of the sign that says Smoky Mountain National Park and that's it.  Then Dad rewinds the camera and takes it to Revco "to get it developed," a phrase we'll have to explain to our kids one day.  It's so funny to look back and see that sometimes those pictures were very...forced.  You know, right after a major meltdown, when our faces are stained with snot and tear trails, and the corners of our mouths are propped up by the imaginary fingers of the one who wants a nice family photo (Mom).  Like - there you go.  You might be at the Smokies, Dad may have taken time off for this, we are all together, but the camera is still going to show you whatever you show it, and maybe a little more.  There is no Photoshop here. And that's my favorite thing about pictures.  You think you're seeing one thing, but when you look at the picture, at what was really there, it's something else entirely.  Not only that, you go back and see stuff you never saw before.  Like how incredibly young your Mom was then.  And how that's probably why they let you and your sister go to pool by yourself...for hours.

Every time I look at this picture of my nephew Ryland I am reminded of how fleeting childhood is, and how weird it is to be on this side of adulthood saying things to make him smile for the camera, when once I was the one who couldn't be bothered to stand in for one more blasted picture.  One day he'll look back and think Were my hands ever so small? but now - well, it's pretty much written all over his face that he's about to drop a four-letter word on me AND my camera.  

That, or he's wondering how they keep that thing so clean. 


  1. Besty, what the heck IS that thing? It's like the world's largest kidney bean. In metal.

  2. "Cloud Gate" in Chicago's Millennium Park!


Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it's not like a compulsive need to be liked. Like my need to be praised.