Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's in a Picture?

My college photo album is pale slate blue with decorative gold trim, tattered pages and frayed binding. It shows the wear of its thirty years. As Casey and I snuggle by a cozy fire, flipping through this relic of my youth, I picture the neat stacks of albums upstairs in my daughter’s room. With covers of burgundy, floral and forest green, they are as fresh as the faces beaming from their pages. In each shot of kids mugging, hugging and carousing, oversized plastic cups feature prominently. “These are, of course, soda?” I've suggested archly while looking through her pictures.

“Yes, Mom,” she always replies with an eye-rolling smirk.

I wonder aloud if Casey’s albums will bear the stamp of thirty years’ passage as overtly as mine. I ponder the prospect of my daughter at age fifty, lugging them out, the floral and burgundy coloring by then faded in tribute to their years.

Dave clumps into the den with an armload of wood and adds a log to the fire. Embers pop as he wads sheets of newspaper into knots and shoves them under the grate between the heavy black andirons. Fed by new fuel, flames curl, bright and warm, as I turn a page of the album. “Trinity College, spring, 1972” is printed in my neat schoolgirl's hand under a photo collage of a softball game.

I smile at the pictures of my friends and roommates, their young faces so open and relaxed, with no greater agenda than some beers and a game on the quad. I notice a lot of oversized plastic cups around.

“Those cups are, of course, soda. Right, Mom?” says Casey with a grin.

"Of course," I respond with the same eye-roll she'd given me. Then, with the feigned primness of a prairie school marm I add, "But, the drinking age was eighteen."

In the background of one picture, out of focus because he was not the subject of the shot, is Davey Sylvestro. When I took the photo, I’d only recently met him; we were introduced by his older brother, my friend, Sly.

Casey crows at the boys’ long hair and Dave’s smooth upper lip; he didn’t grow his mustache until 1973. “You look so cute Dad! Like an Indian,” she says. I glance at Dave and catch his eye. We both smile. Without too much trouble, I see my nineteen year-old boyfriend.

That makes me think. I wonder if there’s a boy in any of Casey’s pictures, out of focus in the background, barely noticed because he’s not the subject of the shot? She mentions new names all the time: boys met in classes, at hockey games, at meals and at parties. She hasn't emphasized anyone in particular yet...


“Sweetie? Could you run up and get your albums? I’d like to take another look.”

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