We had a grand meal yesterday, and gave our thanks indeed. Not all of us were there at the beginning, for the Biscuit had been offered the chance to see the Rolling Stones (live, daddy!) in Los Angeles on Wednesday night and although Thanksgiving above all means family, it was the Stones for heaven’s sakes, and who knows how many more chances she will get? And anyway she made it home in time to munch upon the non-trivial supply of leftovers in the company of those who loved her, which you take it where you can get it with a daughter who’s fifteen and who knows what might happen next.
It’s a momen frozen in time, and if there’s one sure thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the only way to make everyone really smile for a picture is to say something absurd or entirely out of character and then give them three seconds to realize why you did so. If you only give them one or two seconds, instead of smiles you see shocked faces, and if you give them more than four the smiles are already fading, which makes for a rather melancholy portrait. A happy picture then – a snapshot – the shutter opens, closes and the players are caught for a moment in time before they move on, clear the scene, continue to change and grow or fade in small but irreversible ways. These will be the same people for the rest of their lives, but they will never be entirely the same.
The man to the right left us less than a month later, while his broken-hearted bride tarried another four months or so before going on to join him. Hard times for a while, but they brought the rest of us close for the next 23 years or so until the pretty young thing at the bottom there, the one playing the fool for the camera – she was always playing the fool for a camera – took her own leave of us. And now of these seven that were, there are but four that remain, and time has had its way with the rest of us as well.
Life has a way of breaking out, and carrying on. Not long after the first bit of sadness relayed above had started (but well before it had come to its conclusion) there would be more happiness in store, and a way of fighting back against the dying of the light.
And then there were two, two who would not go down without a fight, and some ten years later, by the end of Thanksgiving weekend in 1992 at Trumbo Point Housing aboard NAS Key West, Florida, we sallied forth in our very best seasonal rigs (and a four-day growth of stubble for your humble scribe) in search of the moveable feast that was the officer’s mess of the 45th Fleet Adversary Squadron.
Two had become four. The gentleman on the left there, the one pugnaciously carrying his McDonald’s Happy Meal has now grown a fair bit taller, while the young lady staring with such fixed and terrible intensity at the other gentleman’s upheld hand (and the milk bottle contained therein) has but recently returned from a Rolling Stones concert in Los Angeles, California.
Hairstyles might have changed over the years, but the fundamentals did not – the deep magic continued and soon there were five:
Which tiny wonder now leaps thousand pound equines over three foot high cross-rails, and if you were to suggest that the many gray – let us be generous and call them silver – hairs which adhere to the skull of your correspondent are due in no small measure to pondering the potential consequences of that bit of knowledge, then who would I be to disagree with you?
But now the process of direct familial addition is complete, and any further gains must come through mergers and acquisitions, but while I’ve been around long enough to know that change is the one true constant, growth is not.
Every family portrait is a snapshot in time, an attempt to seize a moment of perfection and hold on to it. But time cannot be restrained, it runs on, runs on and eventually, for each of us runs out. Which seems a melancholy way to end this post, but it’s worthwhile knowing and sharing because we can never be entirely grateful for that which we take for granted.
And for my own part, I have so very much to be thankful for. Just look again at that top picture.
Happiness to you as well, gentle reader and hold on to it as best you might.