Very rarely am I up so early in the morning that the sun is painting the sky a soft peach. I was a bit edgy after the nightmare that woke me (my dream mother decided to take up drinking with my coworker – yikes!). I settled on making cinnamon oatmeal, and sitting down at the computer to change the “scenes of blue” Windows background theme.
I picked cute kittens because, apparently, it’s a kittens kind of day.
We never had a cat growing up because my parents were 100% dog people. Dogs of all shapes and sizes have bounded through our house, and the only cat to ever spend one night was from a neighbor who got the mischievous ball of fur back the next morning after a well-aimed scratch (children who grow up around dogs need definite cat training if all is to go well – trust me). Fluffy puppies and tough dogs clutter the pages of our albums between photos of family and friends.
There are lots of smiles and candid shots of people having picnics, playing in parks, or sitting around the table. Kids are laughing at an unknown joke, and mothers are sitting quietly with adorable babies at their side. Big holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving are heavily featured with birthdays coming in a close third. Picture after picture display moments where lives are captured by a bright flash.
Many of those people are still in the same places, building lives out of the spaces left when we moved away. Phone calls and emails play “catch up” and while it pales in comparison to what the pictures show, it’s still a connection we attempt to make a few times a year.
Others we might see at the post office and feel grateful for the “lucky” chance that brought us together, but the pause necessary for a photo has long passed. We leave them wondering what they’re up to, as our thoughts quickly scatter to the next task in our busy schedule. At best, the encounter is tinged with the warm brown brush of yesteryear.
Then there are those others. The families that used to share movie nights together when the children were young, but now only send Christmas cards with cold, solitary signatures. The child that laughed on the father’s shoulders now shifts uncomfortably silent on the phone with nothing to say (but so much to express). Or the long-ago friend whose smile lit up the shot in our album, but now makes our heart race out of fear as to what we’ll say when we spy them at the deli counter.
I can see all of these types of people in the pictures looking back at me. I’m not naive to think that people stay the same. Every day we change just a little bit and every year we shift slightly to the left, to the right, but always just enough that we aren’t the same as the year before. Gray hairs have started to show up in my dark brown bob, which was once down my back, and my skin needs copious amounts of lotion. But most of these physical changes can be fixed – mended. It’s the small, physical distancing that leads to the emotional unraveling of years and countless moments together that scares me the most.
It’s the fewer phone calls (oh, didn’t I call you?), shorter meetups (hi! *smile* how are you? *smile* Good, we’ll have to meetup sometime when we can sit and chat! *smile*), and the eventual disconnect.
This year we’re having Thanksgiving at our place. This means that we won’t be meeting up with the rest of the extended family for our yearly shared holiday. Will this become routine? No. We’ll see them at Christmas and order will be restored. Having Thanksgiving at our place has been something that my hubby and I had wanted to do for a long time, and it’s logistically impossible for everyone to meet up. But there’s a quiver of fear deep inside me wondering what it’ll take to finally have things fall apart. As much as I want to believe that family stick through thick and thin, I know better. Right now, we’re okay, but we’ve been shifting to the edges of the frame for many years. Slowly but surely the smiles have dimmed and members have drifted out of shot. At times it feels as if it’s only my Grandmother holding it all together.
Relationships require a lot of effort and even family relationships. It’s so easy to let everyday life take control and lose touch outside of the occasional Facebook post. I know I’ve let people down and have let friendships dwindle away due to a selfish desire to focus on me and only me. When I flick through the old photos I’ve scanned, my heart sinks amidst all of the family smiles that no longer shine and the unrecognizable faces bent so close to mine.
It’s also hard to rebuild the gap. Lives have moved on and so much has happened that it seems insurmountable.
But maybe it doesn’t need to be. Maybe it’s okay to let what was stay captured in the fading snapshot. Today, we can and should focus on maintaining and being thankful for what we have now. If we do, then perhaps those faces will stay in the frame for many more brilliant flashes to come.