Yellow, Change

This morning, I have fooled myself into thinking I have nothing to say. In truth, I have much to say – please come, don’t knock, let me tell you my feelings, would you like some grapefruit water? – but when my feelings aren’t kind and controlled and focused, my mind is a rushed tour guide in khaki. Move along, nothing good here to see.

Today, in a cold coffee shop, there is a woman cracking her gum and a blister on my ankle, and I keep forgetting it’s there so that when I adjust my left sandal, when I re-cross my legs, it is a reminder of the cookout a few nights ago, where there was moscato and fireflies and the smell of summer rain, and none of those things are here, today, in a cold coffee shop.

We capture the best moments. We write down our favorite memories, we photograph the sunny days, we bury the treasures, and we think we’ll want to sift through them in five years, ten, eighteen, and smile.

What happens when they don’t make us smile? What happens when these memories bring pain? When we grieve the lost time, the mistakes, the detours and missed turns and unfiltered memories? What, then, of the photographs?

There is an assumption that our life will follow a certain trajectory, that it will create a natural story arc of aging parents, aging selves, aging children, but we assume it is the photographs that are yellowing, and not us. Certainly we are still the same? Certainly we live on; it’s just the paper that ages. Isn’t that what we think?

No, we are yellowing. I feel it this morning, I feel the age and the tone and I see that some photographs are wearing thin, they’re tearing, the friend circles are breaking, cancers are spreading, that change is inevitable.

Most of the time, change is good, needed, inherent, embraced and other times it is so far out of your control that you want to swipe into the back door of Father Time and stick his scythe in the clock gears. Just stop, please. I cannot go on. Bring me the photographs.

Move along, nothing good here to see.

There is a particular photograph of me, holding Bee as an infant, and the eyes – my own – are smiling at the camera but are so fear-filled that it frightens me. There was sheer terror in those eyes, not bliss, and I kept trying to convince myself that there was nothing to fear, but in fact, of course, there was everything to fear.

It is one of my favorite photographs (but truly, my hair looks terrible), because it does not hide the truth. It is not a liar in a frame, a still moment in which I am posing as an elated new parent beaming with joy. It is simply new mother and new daughter, equally terrified of each other and themselves, the bottom of the swimming pool having dropped into the deep end, and now they must tread.

There is much change in these parts right now, and I am back to treading. Everything is yellowing, and I am not (but of course I am), and I am feeling left behind, discarded, forgotten (but of course I am not).

Move along, nothing good here to see.

Yesterday, then. This photo. I felt happy, sitting by the back door in a swath of sun, and I felt happy in the way that happiness finds you when you’re not seeking it. I had nothing to do with it, it was a gift, a welcome surprise, and it left as soon as it was gone, and it, too, began to yellow.

But it was there. I remember it. It was there, and it will come again.

  • lovely. this reminds me of my favorite raymond carver poem, “happiness” that includes at the conclusion:
    “Happiness. It comes on
    unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
    any early morning talk about it.”
    xo as always.

  • Lovely message for any day. Your thoughtfulness inspires me. I’m glad the blister on your heel and the chill in the coffee house didn’t deter you from writing this.

    I often remind myself, and others, that people share their highlight reel. The photos my husband has taken of me asleep in the car won’t be shared. There will never be a photo of me writing this comment with my curly bangs flying all over, an ill fitting tank top and this zit on my cheek exposed in the open air. This isn’t a highlight. But it is me, how I came to your site today. It is how most days actually go but instead I select the best possible photo of something in my life today to share with my “followers” because no one wants to see how ill fitting this tank top really is!

  • Following you from Kelle’s blog.I have one of those photos, also. Also, one of my favorites, but not the one that was plastered in social media. As much as we share with others, there’s still a little bit of privacy we hold dear.

  • hope all is well … know that i am thinking of you … somedays it is an hour at time … others seem so much more optimistic x

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