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"Listen to MUSTN’TS, child..."

 Friday, February 13, 2015

“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” 

Among the many mementos in my house are a collection of family baby photos. My Daddy, as a teenager with his bell bottoms.....his hair swept to the side long before Justin Beiber thought about doing it. My grandmother lounging outdoors, perfectly made up, lifting my tiny smiling brother into the air. My Step mom and little brother, skating in the old rink that has long been gone. A little brown headed boy–my husband–tanned and happy, playing in the dirt with his tractors.....which he still does as an adult, his sandbox has just gotten quite a bit bigger. My sweet baby boy when he had a head full of blonde hair with a few curls, his big eyes peeking out from  his favorite little hiding place in the kitchen. I can remember that day so clearly....As soon as I found him her erupted into a fit of giggles and I tickled him until his face turned red. Little did I know that time would go so fast...I would have tried to memorize that sound so I would never forget how it sounded.  My beautiful Bailey....sitting in her swing that her daddy put up for her...with the last remnants of of a rare snow fall on the ground behind her and the sunshine beaming off her sweet little face.

Looking at these photos never fails to make me smile. They contain miniaturized versions of the faces I know so well–the same expression, the eyes. It’s as though all of the things I love about them are reduced to their most basic elements and crystallized there. Certain characteristics are frozen in time.

When my husband does something that makes me so mad I could spit nails, passing by his childhood photo on the refrigerator  brings my temper down a few notches. I see the impulsive boy in him and know that he will be sorry, just as I am, that we said those stupid things....or reacted the way we did. When Khristian gets a rise out of me....because quite frankly, he is acting exactly like me....when he can't seem to keep his mouth shut. During those moments that I have to walk away from him because I know I can't respond to him the way I should....I will go in my room and look at that sweet little face smiling back at me in that photo...and remember that this is just a stage. 

As I’ve been (sporadically) cleaning out my storage room because I hate clutter and love organization, I’ve been going through boxes of old albums, scanning baby photos for safekeeping. It’s been a while since I really sat down and relived my own childhood through photos. Doing so used to remind me of lost things: my parents before the divorce, forgotten friends from 20+ years ago, the addition of a whole new family, loved ones who are long gone. But, as in so many aspects of my life, I find that, here too, there’s been an emphasis shift.

As I flipped through the plastic sleeves and removed smudged Polaroids and musty prints, I saw my small face, my big green eyes and messy blonde head and I smiled. One or two photos even made me laugh out loud. Who was this precocious little thing who looked just like me, only tinier?

She is light years away from me, and yet she is the essence of me: curious, unselfconscious, naughty, fun. For her, life is full of discoveries: sugar! and salt water, baby birds and bright colors. There is no place yet for jadedness or criticism, expectations or regret. The field is wide open, the score set to zero.

Gazing down at those photos, I experienced that same wave of affection I feel every time I pass my bellbottom wearing dad or my beautiful blonde headed children as babies.

Unapologetic, all-consuming love.

Ahh, how heartbreakingly easy it can be to see the light in others but not see it in yourself. How hard we can be on ourselves for not earning enough or not being nice enough or successful enough or thin enough. It can become a white noise soundtrack that we don’t even realize is playing in the background. Looking through my baby pictures reminded me that the very best part of me is the part that embraces life openly, without expectations or preconceptions or guilt. The me that accepts the world as a gift.

So, I’ve decided to print this photo and place it among those other tiny faces I love so well.

Thirty-one ocean really, of happiness and heartache, experience and expectations lie between us....the stress of everyday life and the days of carefree innocence. ....But she beckons me back to that place of unknowing anticipation, the joy of everyday step outside of my box....reminding me of the Shel Silverstein poem I once loved and read so many times:

Listen to MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me–
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.....


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