I am scanning photos for my dad’s 70th birthday. Which is, actually, impossible–because my dad is 45 years old. He has always been 45 years old, and he will always be 45 years old. Period.
Except that here I am scanning his baby photos. Which means at some point, he must have been four.
The same age my son is now. And he must have played the same little-boy games and built forts and run around. My dad at this age actually looks a lot like my son. And the truth is, even though my dad has drawers full of family photos that he’s collected, I have not seen that many of them. It never really occurred to me to look at childhood photos of my dad. Because he never had a childhood. Because he has always been 45 years old.
Like he is here:
Circa 1983. My mom, my two sisters, my dad, and me. I’m the supermodel in the sailor hat and braces.
I’ve seen this photo a thousand times. It’s one of those favorites that make it into frames and holiday cards. But it’s been a while since I looked at it. And looking now, in this context, makes me see it differently. I can’t help but feel so sympathetic to all these people–these younger versions of ourselves. I know so much that they don’t know: All the things that are waiting for them, and what those things will mean, and how they will linger or be forgotten. I know what will happen next to these people. And for that reason, more than anything else, the only thing my eyes can feel when they rest on this photo tonight is a fierce and inexplicable tenderness.