by: Katherine Binford ((Header art by Mark Manson.))
“I was always surprised by the photos I had taken, photos that brought back memories of moments that had been nibbled at by time and the next thing to do.” A short story that wonders what could have been, if not for the rapidity of which life, and technology, move forward…
Water frothed on the stove, seemingly ready to boil over regardless of the wooden spoon I had placed across the pot. I moved to turn down the heat and glanced towards the family room where my daughter, Becca, was lying prone on the floor. Her elbows had sunk into the carpet and her little hands held her face up towards the television.
Patrick, my son, was sitting on the couch playing with some gadget, peering over the patch on his glasses as Bill Nye the Science Guy demonstrated yet another quirky experiment that I would later say “no” to replicating. Sadly.
At the stove, I tossed some noodles and salt in the pot, reduced the heat, and walked into the family room.
“Becca?” I said, as I sunk to my knees in front of her.
There was no answer and when I got down on all fours, my face brushing her bangs, I could see that her eyes were closed and that she had fallen asleep with her head still propped up by her hands. She had missed her nap earlier, and her three-year-old body had taken over where her stubbornness left off.
I grabbed my camera, snapped a photo and left her right where she was. I knew that if I moved her she might wake up, fretful and cranky.
I glanced at Patrick as I put my finger to my lips. “Shhhhh.”
I went over to the couch, sat next to him and nudged his glasses back up his face.
“Sweetie, you need to look through your glasses to make your eye stronger,” I said for the eighty-third time that week.
Patrick nodded, but I wondered if he was pondering where he would ditch his glasses next. The day before I had found the little brown frames hanging from the artificial fig tree in the corner of the family room. We had been having this battle since he was fourteen months old, but I was determined that he would not go blind in his bad eye, and he had started kindergarten that year with glasses and a full-time patch. He never told me if kids made fun of him. I hoped not.
When I went back to the kitchen and the boiling noodles, the front door opened and my husband, Steven, walked in.
“Hi, honey, I’m home!” he called. He said this jokingly every time he arrived.
I think we both were amazed that we had produced such a traditional nuclear family life, one that I craved after my not so traditional upbringing and one that would eventually bore him.
“Go look at Becca,” I said after we greeted, but by the time Steven looked, she had rolled over on her side and was curled up like a comma.
“Why is she sleeping on the floor? She should be in her bed.” Steven was annoyed and went to pick Becca up but Patrick stopped him by launching himself into Steven’s arms. Becca woke up, the imprint of the carpet bright on her cheek, the start of a howl forming on her mouth.
I sighed, turned off the stove and went to pick her up.
The rhythm of our days were like crisp Oregon coast waves gently folding themselves on the beach—slow, steady and unceasing. I had forgotten I snapped a picture of the sleeping Becca until I saw it weeks later on the roll of film I had dropped off at Freddy’s for developing.
I was always surprised by the photos I had taken, photos that brought back memories of moments that had been nibbled at by time and the next thing to do.
That was a time that we lived our moments. That was a time when waiting for things cultivated patience and built anticipation. We waited for our favorite song to play on the radio; we didn’t have a continuous soundtrack of our own choosing playing in the background of our lives. We waited for letters to come in the mail. We waited weeks for packages to arrive. We waited for photos to be developed. We waited for television shows to come on at a certain time. We waited for movies. We read physical books.
It wasn’t that long ago that no one sat with a computer on their lap or a phone in front of their face. We lived our moments without worrying about recording every instant and then sending it off into the ether to share on Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook.
Maybe if I ’d had a smartphone all those many days ago I could have immediately shown Steven the picture of Becca so cutely asleep, and he would have not been annoyed, and our evening together would have been filled with laughter instead of tension and judgment. Maybe.
The loss of waiting cuts many ways.
Katherine Binford teaches the children of immigrants by day and writes by night. She is currently working on a memoir about her not so traditional upbringing in various Latin American countries.