In preparation for a family gathering, I was recently pawing through a shoebox of photographs, looking for one in particular, and muttering my usual refrain: “Someday, when I have more time, I’m going to get organized. Really I am. And this time, I mean it.”
My fingers sprinted through images of toddlers running through sprinkler spray, the sun gleaming above; then a dented canoe I don’t even own anymore; and finally a son at a junior high school awards night, his expression saying he was indulging his mother (me) while she clicked the camera shutter in a pre-cell phone era.
All of these moments are well-preserved in their own 4x6 piece of time, yet not a one of them was the exact moment I was looking for.
I kept searching though, certain the perfect family photo I was picturing in my mind — the one where the boys looked handsome and I looked well-rested and we were all smiling and whoever was behind the camera knew how to focus the lens — actually existed. And not just existed, but existed in this very shoebox.
Instead of finding it, I put my hand on another photo, pulled it out and looked at it for the fraction of a second, and slipped into a wormhole.
I could feel my son Luke’s baby-fine hair slip from my hand and his body slip from my lap as he ran down a hiking trail, exclaiming with joy, “I running!” There was Owen too, his older brother, just up ahead and already climbing a tall red pine, oblivious to the scrapes on his knees and elbows. That solid weight on my back must have been Will, still at the age where he traveled in the blue backpack on my shoulders, his laugh deep for a boy so young.