I FORGOT MY CAMERA. I feel unnerved about how things are going to go tonight with Tall’s First Grade Musical, and me—without a camera.
The Husband is well aware of my dilemma. For a second, I contemplate sending him home to retrieve it, but the performance is starting in five minutes.
“Don't you have your phone with you?” asks The Husband helpfully. “Take a couple photos with that.”
I give him a bewildered look, the same look I would give him if he'd just suggested I fly to Jupiter—on a bicycle.
“You know I don’t know how to do that,” I sigh. “Plus, I'm really not convinced that my particular phone has photo capability …”
“MOV, do we have to go through this again?” he whispers. “Your. Phone. Takes. Pictures. Here, I'll show you.” He puts his hand out: “Give it to me.”
I pass him the offending device. He opens it up, presses a few buttons, then chuckles.
“Battery’s dead.” He leans over and gives me a sympathetic kiss on the cheek. “Oh, well.”
The theater is darkening. The play is about to begin. I look up at the stage, and a strange thing happens: I relax. The children are in their places, and they start singing. I am watching them, searching for Tall, who I know to be on the left side of the stage. I spot him in the last row and I instinctively fumble around with my purse, hands again forgetting that the camera is at home on the coffee table, right where I left it.
I breathe and listen. The seven-year-olds sing off-key, and I am transported. This is one of those moments, those delicate moments, where you bask in the voice of your child and his peers and forget everything else.
Including your camera.
Apparently, I am the only (terrible) parent to have overlooked such a necessity. All around me are a swirl of camcorders, Flips, digital cameras, and yes—cell phones. The theater is glowing with the ambient light of these splinters of technology.
Why do we live our lives through a view-finder? My mind drifts to my grandmother’s small album of European postcards. During one of my many childhood summers visiting her, I came across it and asked her what it was.
“Oh, that?” she shrugged, “That’s my honeymoon.”
The faded album holds no actual photos, only mass-produced images. There’s Big Ben. Now Buckingham Palace. Look, it’s the Eiffel Tower! Ah, a sherbet-hued sunset over the Mediterranean.
“But there’s no pictures of you.”
She laughed. “Your grandfather wanted to live his life in 3-D; he said he didn’t want to spend our vacation looking through a camera lens. Besides, he felt like the professional photographers did a better job …”
I considered her words. Isn’t it the highest compliment when a friend peruses your photos album of your trip to Hawaii and says, “Wow—great photos! They look just like postcards!”
Where was my postcard of Tall right now, singing on the stage?
My friend Gina happens to be sitting directly in front of me. I tap her on the shoulder and lean close to her ear. “Gina, can you please take a photo of Tall? I forgot my camera.”
“Sure,” she nods agreeably. “No problem.”
The show goes by in a blur of costume changes and mangled verses. After the performance, we go backstage and locate Tall with the rest of his class.
"You were fantastic!" I cheer.
He blushes and looks around, gauging his friends' potential reactions to my impulsive outburst of unbeckoned parental pride. "You didn't take tons of photos this time, did you, Mom?" he murmurs tentatively.
"No, uh, well actually ... no," I offer sheepishly. "Did you want me to?"
He grins wide, showing off spaces where teeth should be. "I was hoping you didn't, because when you take pictures it really embarrasses me."
"Right. Right, I know that. So I didn't."
He leans in for a genuine hug. The memory may not be preserved on film, but the pixels in my brain have recorded it.
("Momentary Other Vision")