“We don’t even have pictures
just memories to hold
that grow sweeter each season
as we slowly grow old”
Toad the Wet Sprocket – “Walk on the Ocean”
During E’s first two years, we have photo and video of his: first ride home from the hospital, first bottle feeding, first time eating solid food, first hair cut, first steps (or as close we could get to the day), first birthday and holidays, first time at a park, first time trying yogurt, first time making the “yogurt face” before spitting yogurt out, and more.
With affordable digital cameras, technology has allowed people to chronicle their children’s lives like never before.
Technology is great. It allows us to remember things we might have otherwise forgotten. For instance, I would have sworn that my son was always blonde haired and skinny. However, our photos of a darker haired Buddha-bellied infant we brought home prove otherwise.
Sometimes, though, technology subtracts from the important moments.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the act of taking photos. I often find myself fidgeting with camera settings, trying to get E to stand still long enough to get a good (no, the PERFECT) shot, looking for fresh batteries or scanning the memory card for something I can delete because I was too lazy to upload the pictures and clear the memory card, and wondering why we have SO MANY damned pictures of the cats?!
All too often, I spend more time trying to chronicle an event than actually enjoying it.
Which brings us to Friday.
We found ourselves driving near the beach just before sunset when it occurred to me that E has never seen the ocean.
“Hey, let’s take E to the beach,” I said.
“But we don’t have the camera,” my wife said.
Oh yeah. I forgot about the Must Take Photos of Every Significant First rule.
“So, do you want to wait?” I asked.
She gave it some thought and said, “No, we can go.”
Walk on the Ocean
I was a bit nervous that E would be afraid of the ocean, as his first exposure to a large body of water – a swimming pool – didn’t go well. He cried the minute his feet got wet. The look on his face was one of betrayal and fear.
However, the beach was a different story. Once his little toes hit the cold, wet shore, he was all smiles and excited whoops, calling the frothy surf “bubbles” and pointing at birds and saying, “ooh, ooh, bird, bird!”
We stood at the perimeter of the breaking waves. My wife had taken her shoes off and rolled up her pants. She and E drew closer to the water’s edge while I watched from a few feet behind them.
I stood there, soaking in the moment – the cries of gulls, the salty breeze and the sound of slowly churning waves.
Suddenly, I saw that the waves were racing towards my wife and E. While she was prepared to get her feet wet up to her ankles, she was not prepared for the encroaching tide.
“Uh oh,” I said, “run!”
As I bolted back to safety, the water rolled in up to my wife’s calves and soaking the bottom of her pants. She picked E up before he could get soaked.
Dangling above the waves, E looked a bit concerned, but wasn’t frightened. In fact, once his feet hit the sand again, he started running back towards the waves with a huge smile on his face.
Before we left, I bent over and pointed at the many shells which had washed ashore and told E to grab one. He picked up a white seashell with tiny, uncertain hands, brought it up to his face, contemplating it. Then he handed the shell to me, bent down to get another, which he also handed to me. I put them both in my pocket, mementos.
It occurred to me that it would be nice to have pictures to chronicle this day. A woman behind me was taking pictures of her own family. I considered asking her to take a picture of us and emailing it to me.
But then, as I looked at my wife and son, the joy in both their faces, I knew in my heart that I didn’t need a photo.
I will never forget this day.
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