Posted on November 19, 2013
Yesterday was my birthday.
My dad, who is a very outspoken man about many things, especially politics, is so incredibly soft spoken about his kids. That’s not to say he doesn’t express himself well, he does. Its just to say he becomes quiet and introspective and more often than not his eyes get a little moist. Every year for our birthdays he goes to the store (this is a man who wouldn’t know where to find the cereal aisle) and picks out a birthday card. It’s always sentimental, never silly. And every year it somehow “fits”. And every year when I get that birthday card my eyes get wet, too.
This year my dad added something extra special to my birthday card – this photo.
I see so many things here, my words can’t come fast enough. I see a 11 ish year old girl who felt awkward just about all the time because of my height and weight and farah faucett hair that never seemed to be right. I see the red checkered shirt and sport shorts that I thought were sooooo cool at the time but caused angst a few years later whenever I saw myself in a picture with that same outfit. I see the Rathbun Lake behind us and remember this one of a kind camping vacation for our family – my dad rented a camper and took our family of 6 to the lake towing our boat behind us. That’s our boat in the background, waiting to go out for a spin. The boat reminds me of the trouble my dad had with it that week – it was stormy most days and he spent much of the time worrying about whether or not the boat was anchored well enough to the shore. I see the small camper with brown striped upholstery that didn’t quite fit our family of 6 but everyone trying to make the best of it.
Most obvious to anyone else who sees this image is the father and daughter walking arm and arm, and someone wistful and sentimental enough to look out a window, see the memory that was being made, and capture it (my mom). I honestly don’t remember the details but maybe my dad does. We had gotten into some kind of argument or disagreement or maybe I was being my teenage pouty bratty self and he told me to knock it off. Whatever happened warranted a “talk” later that involved walking around the seemingly deserted campground for what seemed like a reaaallly long time. I remember feeling in trouble, alone even though my dad was close. I remember at the end of the talk there were hugs – my dad’s warm hugs. He is the kind of hugger who envelopes you with his whole body so you feel his body heat. And he kisses you on the head or forehead or cheek and utters a loving phrase, like “you will always be my princess” or “I’m so proud of you” or even at 43 years old he’ll say with those parting hugs “Be good”.
This photo and my dad’s gesture of giving it to me represents why I am so drawn to photos and moments and memories. I’m not sure I would have remembered this particular vacation that way or the talk Dad and I had without this photo. Would that memory have slipped away, having been pushed aside by all the demands of everyday life?
Its regifting shows what it means to my Dad, and now that I’m a parent I “get” it deep into the core of my soul. My dad didn’t forget nor does he want to. He still holds on to all those memories of our childhood, like maybe he’s afraid he’ll forget. Like his lifeblood depends on remembering it all or at least some of it. And I relate to that every. dam. day. Will I remember the little jig my daughter just did a few minutes ago while I was trying to put her hair in her fav high ponytail? Will I remember the hug my tween daughter gave me unsolicitedly this weekend during our camping trip, a very very rare occurrence these days? When my mom and dad are gone and those birthday cards no longer come I will be forever grateful to Dad and the camera that HE always held in his hands, and to my mom who thought to pick it up and snap a quick shot each and every time it mattered, and even when it didn’t.
I’m so afraid of forgetting, and so grateful for the gift of remembering. Thanks Mom & Dad. I love you.