I just got back from Rite Aid, $25 worth of photos in my hand. This is not what I consider to be a frivolous expense: images of birthday candles, soccer matches, swim lessons, and preschool graduation certainly outrank banal purchases like shampoo and deodorant. Although The Husband agrees with my Kodak logic, it would never occur to him to print these pictures and put them in an album. That’s strictly my job.
When I get home, I peruse old albums to rewind the clock—there I am pregnant, there’s Tall playing in the autumn leaves, here we are in Colorado, oh the Tooth Fairy came! The events that form the exclamation marks for the sentences and paragraphs of our everyday life.
I record them, I savor them, I memorize them.
I am now on a first name basis with the clerk at the photo counter. He gives me discounts for no reason.
My mother wore a Nikon around her neck like jewelry. She posed us in front of the Six Flags sign, or the pier holding up the shells we found, or playing the piano, or hugging the dog. One-two-three-say-cheese, the words synonymous with childhood. We have two dimensional proof that we mattered to our parents, that even though we patriotically moved again and again placing red pins in the map and never unpacking the boxes all the way, our mother cared enough to glue the love into a book.
I flip through the greeting cards and movie ticket stubs and airline tickets, yellowing with age at the edges, taped neatly in my childhood scrapbook, my mother’s precise writing narrating the events. Did I really fly to Atlanta, or did I dream it? The ticket blinks up at me, daring me to forget.
My sons will have their own special albums, laced with emotion and pride and admiration and devotion. The photos blurry, the love clear.
I realize I have not exhaled in the past five minutes, so entranced with these 4 by 6 pieces of paper. I catch my breath.
One by one, I slide the pictures into the plastic album sleeves. I pause at an image of Short laughing hysterically while Tall is making a silly face for the camera. The photo captures the mood perfectly, and my sons have captured my heart.