Kiley is my niece's first child. Do you remember what that was like? The first ones are always fawned over, adored, adulated - practically worshipped. It's only natural. When we are parents for the first time it really comes as quite a shock doesn't it? I'm not talking about the long hours, the hard, tedious work, and the lack of sleep. That's shocking enough I grant you. I don't mean the overwhelming responsibility that you find thrust upon you, the worry that follows your first born around like an evil twin. What I mean is the epiphany of first time parenthood, the astonishing, unanticipated wonder of it all, the revelation that you are capable of such depth of feeling or that this profound emotion that only parents can know even existed.
So it is no wonder that we view our first born as something special, something to be doted on and we don't want to miss a single miraculous moment of their precious existence. In fact we want to record every single moment of that miracle we call "the baby", you know, so we can save those moments for posterity and share them with all of our friends and family who are, no doubt, as thrilled as we are at the incredible uniqueness of what we have created. So out come the cameras, phones these days, and we start snapping away, recording every thing that "our precious" does – the first smile, the first bath, the first crawl, the first tooth, the first steps, the first holiday, "Precious" with Mom, "Precious" with Dad, "Precious" with Grandma, "Precious" with Grandpa, "Precious" with the dog, and on, and on, and on. Thank God for digital technology because the manufacture of that amount of photographic film would leave a carbon footprint so large that the ice caps would melt and the seas would rise from the single-mother births alone. All because we are over-whelmed by this new experience we call parenthood.
Kiley's Mom had just been showing me about the millionth set of new Kiley pictures. (Don't get me wrong. Kiley has become so dear to me that I am as fascinated by every thing she does as her parents are and every new picture is as special to me as it is to them.) And that got me thinking about my own kids when they were kids so I broke out the old pictures. My youngest was born before the digital age so when I say "broke out the old pictures" I of course mean boxes full off fading, old photographs depicting the fresh, unfinished forms of those who are now in their thirties or forties. There was Number-one in all her grandeur, every possible moment immortalized for the world to wonder over, little notations scrawled on the backs of most of them so that future generations will be apprised of the significance of each particular scene. There was Number-two - birthdays, holidays, special moments all duly recorded for posterity. But where's Number-three? Hmmm. I know she's in here somewhere, isn't she? Wait a minute, is that her? In the background there, in that picture of Number-one by the pool. Isn't that her back there by the trees? Didn't she have a blue outfit like that back then? Yep, that's gotta' be her. So there they are, all three of them. Each as special as the other and each photograph as precious to me in my old age as the children themselves. Look at Number-one with that clever smile she always had, and Number-two with those dimples, and Number-three with that blue outfit. Wait a minute, that is her, isn't it? Or is that her cousin Katy? No, that's her. That's definitely her. I'd recognize that outfit anywhere. Thank God for pictures. What would we do without them, especially as we get older? They are our link to the way things were. They keep the past, and the loved ones in it, fresh in our eyes and in our hearts as our memories of long ago begin to fade.