A poem about the name no one can know

A glimpse of 1977

14980893193_c48a01464a_zWhen I traveled to San Antonio over the summer I brought back a bag of old photographs, which I am slowly digitizing, a few at a time.

Many of the photos are undated, so I have to guess at when they were taken. This one, though, says "1977" on the back. I'm grateful for that piece of metadata. It tells me that in this picture, I am two going on three, and my mother is only a couple of years older than I am now.

This was taken in the backyard of my childhood home. That house was made of limestone, with a roof made out of red clay tiles in the Spanish style. I remember that gate around our swimming pool, and I remember the little sculpture of a turtle (visible, though blurry, in the bottom right-hand corner) which had been shaped around a pipe, so that water could be made to spray into the pool out of the turtle's open mouth.

Some years later, when I was a decent swimmer and it was safe to take the railing down, my parents replaced the pebbled concrete around the pool with red bricks. And eventually the turtle too went away, though the little fountain remained. I think I insisted on keeping the turtle in the secret hideaway I constructed in the small space between our backyard and the backyard of our next-door neighbors. But none of that had happened yet when this photo was taken.

So many of the experiences I think of as having been formative hadn't happened yet when this photo was taken. At two there's an inconceivable amount of growing and changing ahead. My mother, in contrast, was already recognizably herself when this photo was taken. She had been a mom for years; she had already grown into the adult she intended to be. Of course there were decades of adventures ahead for her, too -- but I think nothing is as extreme as the changes we undergo as kids.

When I look now at photographs of myself as a child with my parents, I'm conscious of being a link in a generational chain. It's fascinating to imagine our son, when he is approaching forty, looking at photographs of me holding him when he was two. What will he see in the expression on my face, the way I look at him, the way we are together? What will he remember of those early years of stubbornly insisting "I do it," climbing and running and falling, playgrounds and sippy cups?



I'm taking advantage of the #throwbackthursday / #tbt meme -- which usually involves posting old photos on Thursdays -- as an opportunity to write short snippets of remembrance, sparked by whatever old photo I find to post. I can't guarantee that I'll do this every Thursday, but I'm enjoying the practice so far.