Copyright Alex Chalkley Photography
My son punched his way into this world with fist extended, was laid upon my chest, caressed my cheek, looked me in the eye and seemed to say everything that mattered. Hello. I love you. In that instant I was in love with his fast breathing, his puffy face, his tenderness and his ferocity. I will forever see him through the lens of our first introduction.
On the walls of my home, my story hangs. A three-month-old stares at me from a picture over the bar. I focus on his deep blue eyes and that crooked grin he still sometimes flashes. In the background I see my hug and the soft blue fuzz of a coverall protecting him from the February breeze on the Old Town waterfront. He was an agreeable model despite the cold. He slept in a stroller and on a blanket; smiled in our arms and even attempted to walk alone.
His eyes changed. They are still magnetic, but I can see that by a year and a half those deep blue eyes are something different. Once dark and solid, there is only a dark blue ring that surrounds what looks like a frozen ocean. I wonder if they’ll last. This picture pierces me. This picture hangs near the center of the living room wall. This link between my baby and my almost boy. I stare at that living room picture every day at least 100 times. I try to describe the color of that blue, the white of his face, his whitish blond hair. I try to remember that day.
On the trails of the battlefield at Manassas, he ran. He picked up pebbles. He shared with giggles. He pushed his red sports car and watched how it would roll. He snuggled on daddy’s lap for a story to be told. He was full of baby chubs and loving kindness. When he looked at Miss Alex while giving her flowers and seemed to wonder what her reaction would be, it was 100 years of my future heart breaking I was feeling when I at last realized how intertwined we really are.
On the wall of my home, our story hangs. Those battlefield memories mark the time, I realize, is now gone. Those moments seemed so infinite and tangible, but proved illusive, like fingers trying to catch the golden sun. It was a day in mid May, comfortable as the trees swayed to let in then shield us from the morning sun. It marked the beginning of listening to instructions and the end of needing Mommy to yell, “rough terrain” ahead. It was long after running backwards had been accomplished, just after all words in books were repeated and around the time that a wakeful toddler would tell me with a sob that baby needs his pa.
But between there and here are millions of moments, thousands of pieces of him, hundreds of things I’d do anything not to forget.
He climbs up next to me on the couch. His arms and legs are impossibly long now and missing that baby chub. He asks what I’m doing and if I want to play with him. Of course, I smile. His red race car now rolls through the land of imagination. Lego Mommy and Daddy take turns driving it over the curves of the couch before it becomes a hay baler for farmer Greenie to mow the cushion fields. Once gifted pebbles have turned into life lessons about what we toss and what we hold. Meanwhile books still edge out television in our household.
When day is done and I sit alone, I know these memories will fade. Others I’ve forgotten will come into focus. As time goes on these images with their stories and their sweet composition will mean 1,000 things I can’t yet predict. Reminders of the beginnings of some things, moments that mark the end of others: a month before the death of a cousin, weeks before a pudgy tummy holds another baby. These images mark time. They document stories unfolding;stories like pebbles that mark a path that’s coming to light.
I will admire these pictures that hang from my wall, bathed in light that shines on meaning of feelings even now I can barely trace. We will live more. We will take more. We will try to remember what they meant and how they felt. We will tell stories. We will pass on pictures and with them a history that roots us in the earth, that sways from the winds, that grows with care and bends toward the light.
* A big thank you to Alex Chalkley for capturing our memories in your pictures.