In all the years we’ve been together as a family, and all the photos we’ve taken, on film with clunky Kodaks and Nikons, advancing through the “digital age,” and most recently, with our ever-more-powerful (and for me, confusing) phones, I have a favorite.
Like all photos, it captures a moment in time, and when that moment includes your kids, I think it always holds a special place. But this photo holds more than memories of our kids as they once were, or the small house we lived in at the time. For me, it marks a turning point in my life.
One evening in late November that year (2000), the kids were playing on the living room floor, on a blanket adorned with trucks and heavy equipment Will received when he was born, one his grandma (Joan’s mom) had made for him. Four years earlier, she did the same for Kate; hers had farm animals on it.
For both our kids, these items became their “go-to blankies,” and why not? They were colorful, soft and crafted with love, and if you don’t believe me, I’m sure we still have their tattered remains packed safety away, proof of life and evidence of many, many days of use, comfort and reciprocal love.
On the evening in question, the kids were both happy and playing together, the living room floor littered with toys. And as is customary for parents of young children, whose willingness and patience for having their photos taken at those ages tend to be much higher than later in their formative years, Joan decided to grab the camera to document the fun.
After several minutes of casual snap-shooting, Joan mentioned we still hadn’t chosen a photo for our annual holiday card, and maybe one of these would be “the one.” As I remember it, we didn’t work too hard to get the kids in position (like posing a four-year-old and an eight-month-old would have worked even had we tried). It simply came together, just like their heads, their bright smiles and the colors of their outfits blending perfectly with the blanket. It was, in a word my best friend/cousin Mike likes to use, kismet; that is, “fate” or “destiny.” (I lean to the more mundane and pedestrian, “dumb luck.”)
At any rate, without wardrobe checks, props or any preparation at all, this photo just “happened,” organically, authentically, perfectly. Days later, after we got the prints back from Walgreen’s (remember those days?), just one look at those two kids, lying on the ground laughing told us that photo would be our 2000 holiday card, the year of Will’s first Christmas; the first Christmas we’d celebrate as the family of four, a complete Haznaw “set.”
It would also mark the last Christmas we’d spend in that little house, our first home together.
But no one received that photo – transformed into a holiday card wishing a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Haznaw Family: (Joan, David, Kate (4) and Will (eight months)” --that year.
Instead, that photo of a brother and sister lying on the floor giggling sat benignly on our kitchen counter, waiting to become something more, something special shared with family and friends, many of whom were with us on the night of December 7, 2000, 20 years ago today, as I, along with my brother and sisters eulogized our father, who had died three days prior.
That year, 2000, remains the only year since Kate was born that we didn’t send a photo card for the holidays, and I suspect our current streak will remain intact for many more years, even now that the kids are grown and harder to corral for a photo; though I will say that they are much more willing to have their photos taken now than for so many years between that moment in 2000 and today.
Maybe I’m sharing this today because it will somehow fill in a hole left that year, not just in our “holiday card streak,” but also by all the stuff that happened the days and weeks on and after December 4, 2000.
That photo now hangs in a frame on our living room wall. And I love it not only because it reminds me of those little kids and the joy they brought us then and continue to bring us today, but also because for me, it’s a reminder of the value and fragility of life and the rate at which time passes.
On December 3, 2000, none of us had any idea what was coming “tomorrow,” not even my dad. Now, 20 years later, it seems like it was just yesterday. Those little kiddos have grown into wonderful people, celebrating a lifetime of holiday seasons since my dad passed.
And every time I look at that photo (and I look at it often), I think of the kids as they were back then, and I also think of my dad. And for that, I’m grateful; grateful to have cues that come into my view or mind’s eye that remind me of that time – and of him – reflected in our kids. My only regret is that he didn’t get to spend more time with them, and for them to get to know him a little bit better.
Every time I see that photo and those smiles, it slows me down because I look at it for a long time, and it reminds me to enjoy the moment I’m in, to be grateful for all the moments I’ve experienced (even the tough ones), and to be hopeful for all the moments that lay ahead.
With that, I give you The Haznaw Holiday Card 2000, from Joan, David, Kate (4) and Will (eight months). Because it’s never too late to enjoy moments or create memories.
(Love you Dad.)
© 2020 David R. Haznaw