May 6, 2010

A Picture of My Thoughts

I've been thinking about pictures lately.

Pictures are truth and lies.

When we look at a picture, we see a frozen moment of the past. We see a slice of time that shows us joy, sorrow, anger, beauty, pain, life or death. That little bit of happiness or sadness acts on us like a trigger, reviving memories and feelings from times gone by. We use pictures as an index to our lives. How many people have looked at a photograph and never uttered the phrase "Oh, I remember that! That was when I..."

Pictures, however, are also lies. They give us an idea of events, but never the full event. We see a photo of a man being punched in the face and we can't help but think "What's happening here?" The picture causes us to invent a story to fill in the gaps. Was he defending himself? Was he the instigator? Was this a boxing match?

I've been about this topic because I've been trying to take a picture or two of Harper every morning. I send them to a few people in the hopes that I will brighten their days.

Over the past few weeks, I've been taking them with my phone just before I drop her off at day care and, as a result, they almost been identical pictures. I take them while she's in her car seat, wearing different outfits, but with almost identical facial expressions.

I take these pictures because they are the easiest to take with my phone, which is my only camera at the moment. She's a captive subject, usually smiling when I open the door, and it seems like a good record.

If I take these every day for the next few years, I will be able to make a flip-book and watch her grow before my eyes.

She is already growing so fast and I worry that I'm missing so much. There is the time I spend away from her, but there is also the time that we spend together that I miss because of other things. I've been very frustrated with work recently (read "the past 8 months") and I know that our time has become slightly tainted because of it.

In the morning, I am occupied by thoughts of getting ready for work and what I'll do with my students to keep them from having breakdowns, either violently or emotionally. In the evenings, I am occupied by calming myself down from the day, talking to my wife for the first time in 20 hours and just trying to decide whether I should mow the lawn before the sun goes down.

The evenings are a little less stressful because being able to see my daughter after a long day always makes me happy. I walk in the door, say hello and she turns at the sound of my voice and smiles at me.

In my deepest and most personal fantasies, I picture myself coming home from work, tie undone, clothing a bit rumpled, calling into the house that I'm home and having Harper (a little older now) come running at me with her arms wide screaming "DADDY!!!" She'll throw her arms around my neck, I'll drop my work things and leave them there until the morning.

This image is so strong in my mind that I can close my eyes any time of the day or night and see it. I can feel her arms and hear her voice.

Obviously, since Harper is unable to walk or talk yet, this hasn't happened and I'm not holding my breath. Children will do what they want no matter how much I want it to be a certain way. It may happen, it may not.

As of right now, when I'm having a rough day at work, wondering why I'm here, I find somewhere quiet to sit and I go through my phone. I look at the 100+ pictures that I have of my beautiful daughter and smile. I imagine the sound of her voice, the smell of her skin and the feel of her hands grabbing at my beard and face. I use my pictures to remind me why I'm working.

My pictures, while not perfect, are good enough to sustain me in times of trouble. The pictures don't tell a story as some might, but they allow me to create my own stories.

In this instance, I want the lies that pictures induce. I don't want the truth. I don't want to be reminded that I am not with my daughter. I don't want to look at these pictures and see my students staring back at me.

I want my pictures to open the floodgates, not only of my memory, but also my imagination. I want to see the happy life I have at my house. It reminds me that that life is only possible because of the sacrifices that Sara I make every day by going to work. I am thankful that I have a job that affords me the summers off.

I love my pictures and I share them with everyone I can.

I horde them.

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