I saw this picture the other day of a 16 year old girl sitting on top of a Corvette. The picture looked like it was taken back in the '50s. The caption read "My mom was way cooler than I ever was." It made me smile. Then, of course, it sent my mind wandering on how much cooler my own mother probably was back in the day. You go through the pictures of your parents when you're a kid. You hear your grandparents joke back and forth with each other about the good ole days, how they met, what they used to do but as a kid? As a kid you didn't really listen to them. All you can understand in that moment that the only job your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents if you were lucky enough to know them had was all about you. To you when you're young, that's all your tiny mind will let you accept about them. Then you get older. You grow up. Maybe you meet someone and you start your own family. Or you don't and you live a life with only yourself. You start to understand that your parents are actual people but they are the people you see in front of you... not that cool 16 year old sitting on a Corvette in a bikini. You still see your father as that big, strong man that protected you. You still just see your mother as the one that kissed your boo-boos away, that will always be there to help you how to figure out how to make it better. You are still sitting at that kitchen table waiting to lick the left over frosting out of the bowl. It's nice to let yourself be in those memories, to truly surround yourself with that comfort whatever your memory is. Those memories are our foundations, the strings that taught our hearts how to beat.
But then you go back to look at those photographs as adults with all your life experiences now compiled in your head. You remember the first boy you kissed, the first girl who held your hand. You remember the first car you bought, how proud you were to have those keys in your hands. You can remember the smell of your kids when they were babies, the first family pet you had to let go. You have all this life inside of you now and you go back to those pictures. You see how goofy your father looks in his aviator glasses, how skinny he was. You never realized how beautiful your mother was when she was younger, how much life stared back at you from that old, tattered photograph that you've probably looked at a million times. For some reason, when you get older, it is like you are seeing these photographs for the first time. You never realized that your parents looked at each other like that or that they had other loves before they found each other, that they maybe will have new loves, too. You forget that once upon a time your father was a small boy who just liked to laugh. It is easy to forget that your mother once had a much harder struggle navigating through her male time era, that her mother before that had it harder than her. We tend to believe that the only life our parents ever lived was the life that we were a part of but that couldn't have been further from the truth. I find it beautiful, simply beautiful.
We get so wrapped up in our own lives. We get so side tracked by the right now that we lose track that someday we'll be those people in the pictures, those old and tattered pictures. Our kids will tell their kids our stories but we'll just be stories at that point. Our kids will have their memories of us, of all the good times that we spent together and all the bad times we just needed to get away from the other. My daughter will pull out a picture of me and smile, thinking to herself this is my mom. She'll find an older picture of me as a young girl or in high school before she was a twinkle in my eye. The older she gets, the more she'll understand that I lived an entire life before she ever existed. She'll start to have an appreciation for that part of my life that she could not be a part of. And that's what I think when I see these old pictures of my parents. I start to wonder what were they really like before life started to creep up on them. Was my mother as nervous as I sometimes find myself? Did my father laugh more? What was their life like? Did they find joy? What sadness did they overcome? Were they successful? What secrets do they keep beyond these pictures? What a beautiful mystery. I'd like to think that the girl in the bikini on the Corvette got off that car after that picture was taken. I'd like to believe that she sat in that driver's seat and took off, letting the wind blow through her hair. I'd like to picture her driving off into the sunset and having the most glorious adventure. One day we'll be that girl in that picture.. The moments we live now we'll be what stares back at us years from now. How beautiful we will then realize we've always been.