© Another Day in the Country
I’m a picture taker. Seldom can I be found without my camera nearby. It’s like my third eye, recording the world. And I get great pleasure from taking pictures, the miracle of preserving a moment, a second, in time. Especially when my grandson is around.
They grow up so fast. Day before yesterday, it seems, my daughter told me she was pregnant — miracle of all miracles. (She was almost 40.) Then he was born and swoosh, he’s 6 years old. My camera has recorded so many moments of that little life, that little philosophical soul of his always amazes me.
I think I told you about this spring when he was contemplating his sixth birthday.
“Six years is a long time in a kids life, isn’t it Baba?” He said, snuggled up against me in my bed. I agreed. “But in your life it wasn’t very long at all.”
He continued. I agreed. Blink. Blink. Six years. And what would I do without my trusty camera to record those years? I can look back with impunity. I can relish, savor, muse over, remember with clarity those occasions when time stood still.
There he is as an infant, alert, intelligent eyes looking back at me. And now a toddler, holding to Tim-bo’s finger. Then he was 2, and still disliked the sound of the little car we’d gotten him for Christmas; 3, 4 and there’s my favorite picture of all. He’s riding his trike in California, whizzing past me, teasing me who has the camera pointed in his direction, daring me to catch the look I want, and then I got it!
He’s stopped in front of me and he’s looking up at me with those adoring eyes. Love and mischief and joy at being with his Baba shining out in all its splendor. I’ve probably taken a thousand pictures through the years — haven’t kept them all — but this is my favorite. How many times in your life are you looked at with adoring eyes? How often do you have a record of the occasion?
Now my grandson says to me, “Baba, enough pictures. I don’t like having my picture taken.”
I try to be more sparing with the click of the camera. I wish sometimes the shutter was quieter.
My mother was not a photographer. She was a recorder. With her trusty tape deck she was always recording something: the rooster crowing, bird calls, the whistle of a train, a coyote howling. She loved telling children’s stories and of course, she would record them and it was her great delight to add sound effects. With the technology at her disposal, she did pretty good. My Dad was the picture taker in the family. I, too, hated having my picture taken so I can relate to Dagfinnr.
Since Mom loved recording, she’d put her tape deck behind the sofa or under a chair and just turn it on. We’d all be sitting around, fooling around, singing, laughing, telling stories and then someone would say, “Mom are you recording this?” And sure enough, we’d find the tape whirring along. “Leave it alone,” she’d plead. “When you are gone, I love listening to it all. The house is so quiet.” And then we knew how much Mom missed us, missed having family close by. She never said.
I miss her, too. Our family members who inhabited Ramona and it’s adjoining farms for over a hundred years are all gone, now. The town feels different without Aunt Naomi’s cherry pies; but I make them with cherries from our own tree. I miss seeing Uncle Hank rounding the corner, heading for the Post Office; but our Post Office is still here and Kathy does her best.
We’ve still got Aunt Gertie’s historical pictures, not in town any more but just on the edge of town at the old Bretheren Church that Jay restored. And I have picture books galore, so that if we forget what it was like to spend another day in the country, we can always look.
Before my kids headed back to California, I asked Dagfinnr to come stand by his “tree” so I could take a picture of how tall they both had grown. The tree is a cottonwood that came up in my stream the year he was born. I pulled it out of the water and heeled it into the garden for the winter, wondering if it would live.
It did, so that next spring I planted it in the yard and declared it Dagfinnr’s Tree — so long as it turned out to be a male tree. At 2 he didn’t really understand about the tree. At 3 he watered it every time he came to visit and wondered about that tree being taller than he was. Every year, we’ve taken pictures. At 6, we’ve ascertained that the tree really is a boy, “How can you tell, Baba?” Dagfinnr wants to know. That tree is a happy camper in my yard, 15-20 feet tall.
“I don’t want to take a picture,” Dagfinnr declared, as they were getting ready to go. Enough already with the pictures, I wasn’t going to push. And then his Mother bent down, talking quietly in his ear, “Sometimes we do things for people that we love, just because they’ve asked,” she said. He stood by the tree and even smiled.