I recently came across a photograph that was taken 21 years ago. My boyfriend and I were attending the 50th birthday party of his twin aunts, and all the family and cousins and spouses had come together to celebrate. I was fairly new on the scene – we had been dating a few months – and this was as much a celebration of a half century birthday as it was my being presented to pass the family sniff test. Looking at the photograph there is so much youth and anticipation in our faces. Our expressions have this wonderful carelessness – almost a naivete – about them. There are no lines of worry or stress or responsibility, just two people having fun at a party.
It struck me that we are now beyond the age of the people whose birthday we were celebrating so many years ago. Where did the time go? I can’t really account for it – it has gone by so fast. And then I looked closer at the photograph – at our faces – and I couldn’t remember the people that we were. What were we thinking? What were we talking about? What was important then? Not long after the photograph was taken, the boyfriend became my husband, then the father of my children, and eventually my ex-husband.
Looking back at that moment in time, seeing the almost willful innocence projecting out from the photograph, I wonder what we would have done if we had known how the future would play out. Would we have made the same decisions? Would we have paid closer attention to the details and daily minutia that make up so much of life?
Our daughter celebrated her birthday over the weekend. A photograph was taken of me, which thanks to soft lighting and a good hair day, flatters me more than it should. There is a youthfulness about the picture, but no carelessness or naivete in my expression.
Just as I was 21 years ago, I am on the verge of change. Different roads – both personal and professional, emotional and tangible – lie before me. Perhaps it’s the weight of years that slows the decision making process; maybe it’s caution born from experience. Part of me misses the youthful enthusiasm of plunging into a decision and letting things happen organically. Do I know or understand too much now, or did I know or understand too little then?
And I wonder, will I remember who I was and what was important to me, when, 21 years from now, I look at the photograph taken this past weekend?