Every trip to the lake ended the same way, with every present Thompson family member crammed onto an eight foot square section of porch outside the family cabin, arranging themselves in as many combinations as imaginable. Siblings with siblings, cousins with cousins, grandparent with grandchildren, and so on, with Grandma as the centerpiece with revolving groups of people around her.
It only happened once a year, with the August heat and promise of fresh picked huckleberries ever present. We would all stand around contributing combinations we thought necessary. No photo was looked at as more important than others, but still every combination was exhausted in an effort to remember. Some day they might be all we had left.
The final photo, the matriarch and her children, captured the core group responsible for establishing, maintaining and transitioning this magically relaxing property, where life’s pace screeches to a near-halt and life’s most important things become blatantly obvious. Family. Connection. Simplicity. Love.
Six years later, now with the matriarch residing over all lakeside photo shoots from above, I hit send to my father’s email with the subject line reading, “Found this one today…”. Up until that point, this attached photo, perhaps the last of it’s kind with all first generation lake dwellers present, had been nothing but a small piece of the collection, it’s importance no more elevated than it’s sibling or cousin counterparts.
Time and loss inflated it’s importance. Time and loss have a funny way of doing this, elevating the ordinary to essential, the meaningless to meaningful, the after thought to centerpiece. What started no differently than the other thirty second periods of cataloging family combinations, now held an emotional weight far superior.
His response came an hour later. Three simple thank you’s, in over punctuated succession, told the entire story. Usually a man of succinct wording, with nothing wasted or used unnecessarily, I knew this response validated the content’s elevated status to my father. A photo, not near technical perfection but precise in it’s emotional connection, had done it’s job. It became the transport vehicle to a time revered. It connected a moment with a heart string. It created a mountain from a mole hill.
Although I couldn’t see the tears in his eyes through the inbox, I knew the tears in mine meant I had given him something that nothing else could. A reason to smile, a bridge to times brimming with love and connection, and a reason to continue standing on an eight foot wide section of porch for every August to come.