The question tends to pop up on Facebook (and before that, MySpace, which followed essentially the same deal via endlessly forwarded emails) questionnaires: “If your house was on fire, what would you grab before running out the door?”
Truth? I probably wouldn’t grab a thing. My guess is I’d hightail my hiney outside without thought to anything but staying alive and unsinged.
That’s not the point of the question, I know, so when asked, I’ve usually done what was expected and named a few things that hold sentimental value. Invariably, most people say they’d scoop up albums or boxes of photographs. Old photos really are wonderful things. Snapshots freeze moments so that we can hold onto them—and the people in them—forever.
I’m fortunate to have quite a few pictures from my childhood. I wish there were more of my mom, but she didn’t love being photographed, so I have what amounts to a handful of her from each year. That’s fine, though. I don’t need stacks of Polaroids. I don’t need fancy studio shots or tons of cute candids. I have an overstuffed file of moments organized neatly in my noggin (it’s damn crowded in there), and I fan through the pics frequently. Often, the images pop up unbidden, prompted by a whiff of something in the air, a few notes of music, or a familiar look from one of my children or grands.
It’s not just photos of my mom, of course, that live inside of me. There are a host of images that I’ll hold forever fondly. There’s the obvious stuff. The look in my husband’s eyes the moment he slipped the ring on my finger, first glimpses of my newborns, the kids in caps and gowns and some years later, all dressed up and taking vows of their own. Wonderful stuff, but many of my favorite mental snapshots are of everyday moments that never found their way onto film.
I look down and see my little girl feet in black patent leather Mary Janes. They are standing atop my dad’s freshly polished dress shoes and we are dancing.
We are in a tent in the backyard of my childhood home. My best friend holds a flashlight under her chin in an effort to look scary, but neither of us can stop laughing.
My brother is teaching me to drive, even though I won’t get my permit for another three years and our parents would skin him alive if they knew. I look to my right and see him sitting in the passenger seat. He’s almost as happy as I am.
We haven’t been dating long, but have already perfected the art of understanding one another’s expressions. He cocks his head a little and raises an eyebrow ever so slightly, and I know we’re going to have a very nice night.
She wakes from her nap and I reach in the crib to scoop her up. Her cheeks are pink and her big blue eyes light up when she sees me.
He cuts a huge bite of chocolate cake, opens his little mouth wide, and angles his fork in an effort to jam the whole thing in. It almost works and he smiles. His teeth and one side of his face are covered in frosting.
We’re on vacation and she’s determined to jump into the deep end of the pool, even though she’s afraid. She spreads her arms wide and leaps. When she emerges from the water, she takes a huge breath and grins.
My heart has just been broken and though he lives across town now in his first apartment, he shows up within minutes. He doesn’t say anything, but sits next to me on the couch, puts his arm around my shoulder to draw me close, and holds on while I sob into his tee-shirt clad shoulder, the ash gray turning dark with my tears.
She’s standing in her kitchen and I am seated at her table. She holds her infant son and whispers something to him, then lets her lips rest against his tiny ear.
I’ve been given a manicure by my three-year-old granddaughter. My nails are painted, as are most of my fingers up to each first knuckle. I reach out my hand to admire her work and realize I’ve never enjoyed having them done this much before.
He takes my hand and we wait. The doctor delivers good news and we both exhale, neither of us realizing until then that we’d been holding our breath. The doctor stands and reaches her hands forward. We each take one and I stare for a moment at the six hands, joined in gratitude.
How about you? I’ll bet you’ve got lots of favorite mental snapshots. Care to share a few?
Written for this week’s GBE topic, “Snapshots.” If you’d like to blog with us, just clickety-click. All are welcome!
Oh, and you wouldn’t like it if someone stole your words, so please don’t steal the work of photographers and graphic artists to provide images for your blog.