I was going through photo albums between 1992 and 1996 looking for pictures of a visit my aunt and uncle made to our house. They arrived late one summer, riding high in their RV. We were a stop on their itinerary as my uncle headed back to his college for a reunion. I can remember the excited and incredulous looks on my young daughters’ faces when they discovered that there was a house with wheels sitting in our driveway.
The girls were about four and five at the time. My son was either an infant, or had not arrived. I wanted to offer my cousins a photograph of that visit for the collage they were preparing for their mother’s memorial service. I was disappointed that I was unable to locate it. The memory remains so fresh in my mind.
Flipping through the albums brought an unexpected consolation, however. The photo albums transported me back to a time that was packed with memorable moments. There were birthdays, lots and lots of birthdays. I studied the pictures of all of the firsts - the first time riding a bicycle, the first sled ride, the first day of school, the first time holding the new baby in our family. I found tears streaming down my face as I saw glimpses of loved ones who are now departed. Though the photos were one dimensional and lay trapped in the pages of an album, each one played like a mini-film in my imagination. My two-year old son posed in his sister’s pink tutu, for instance. I could practically see the struggle that took place getting Charles into it. He did not object, but the garment was so unfamiliar to him, he couldn’t follow his sisters’ instructions. There was a visit to Florida to see my grandparents. The photographs don’t suggest that both girls had 104 degree fevers due to double ear infections! The treasured takeaway from that visit was a photo op shot on their great-grandfather’s knees. It was not long before he handed the girls back to me rather than risk being exposed to their infections. As I studied my children’s minute facial expressions, I reflected that I could never have guessed to what extent they would evolve as individuals. From such seeds great oaks are born.
I could never have guessed at the tidal wave of life that was coming my way. Knowing what I know now, would I have changed anything? I think not. The most pronounced emotion I could describe while I was thumbing through the past was delight -- no, unadulterated joy -- to have been part of this family. I was thrilled to be transported to a different period on the continuum of my life. I was reminded of the part I have played in raising our children and creating their home lives. The past is giving way to a new era. I will move forward with open arms. However, I have a touchstone to my memories. Should I choose, I can simply open an album and step into the past.