This weekend I performed an annual ritual that I am going to guess is the same one that most of you who are moms or aunts perform as well. I’m quite sure it is a ritual that even my mother practiced throughout the years.
I took the frame down off the wall so I could update it with my son’s current school picture. And as I took the back off, I did my annual review of all the years’ photos that I keep piled behind the most recent. It is like a photographic journey through the past 12 years. Well, ok, make that the past 9 years, because we started with pre-school.
Of course the first feeling I am invariably hit with is one of bittersweet melancholy. How can time be passing so very quickly? How can my little baby be in Middle School? I remember my mother used to say to me “the older you get, the faster time flies.” When I was young, I thought that couldn’t possibly be true. And yet, it is. Weeks, months, and even years fly by in a heartbeat.
The next feeling is one of overall wonder. To see how a child changes from year to year really is amazing… From the very round head and big eyes of a toddler to the years of missing teeth and messy hair in grade school to the entering-puberty tween big boy. And even more amazing is how that child can change yet certain features remain the same. His eyes, his smile, his personality – could never be mistaken, and will still look the same when he is a grown man.
Then I realize I’m smiling and chuckling as I remember the school picture days from each year. There are the years we had to do re-takes because his eyes were closed, or he didn’t smile. There are the clothing choices – when he was young and couldn’t protest, I dressed him in his finest adorable “little dude” clothes. Then as he got older it was the battle against the cartoon tshirts, or there was the one year he wanted to wear a tie. In one photo, he had lost a tooth right before the shoot, and had at least one other that was loose and looking crooked in his big smile. In the more recent years, there have been the big decisions to be made as to which cool background to use. In my school days, we had the choice between grey and blue.
As I look at each photo, a memory about him at each stage pops into my mind. And with that, I move into the last phase of my Mom Ritual. I experience almost overwhelming feelings of pride, hope, and immense love. I’m just so proud and humbled that we created this handsome, smart, healthy, happy boy. I can’t imagine life without him, and I have so much hope for him in the future. I know very well that as we bravely enter the teen years, it will be a bumpy ride. But we will get through them, and each year, much to his embarrassment, I will add his photo to the front of the frame.
As I hung the frame back up on the wall, I imagined that some day, as a grown man, he will have a wife who loves him and admires who he is, and she will laugh and smile as I share with her each of his annual portraits. Sure, he will be embarrassed and slightly horrified.
Until the day comes when he has a child of his own, and finds his wife doing the exact same ritual year after year.