Back it up.
Right there. That’s the one… the image that captures it all.
The frame pulses in and out of focus exactly as it was- vivid, fluid, and perfectly imperfect. I can’t believe how real it looks. Not just real, but alive. It pulls me in closer, knowing I cannot resist the urge to visit there again.
The setting sunbeams slant through the kitchen window and bathe half the room in hot yellow, the faded wallpaper flowers like the hashmarks of a South Florida sundial. There is a long row of avocados and mangos lined up along the windowsill, and a black and white cat sits just outside the screen playing with a lizard trapped under one paw.
A half-dozen barefoot, freckle-nosed children are sitting around a table that is shaped like the number six (a coincidence I always chalked up to careful intention). The table’s surface is a swirl of sea-foam and white Formica, and utensils clatter loudly against it during the busy mealtime rush. Two small dogs wind between the children’s feet, and a vigilant German shepherd keeps watch from the doorway.
On the wall above the far end of the table, the phone rings and a spindly blond girl jumps up to answer it. The father gives her a stern glance, and she replies with an exasperated eye roll. Just as she hangs up the phone, the small boy near her spontaneously clutches his heart and belts out the refrain from The Marriage of Figaro; a passionate opera star with a mouthful of corn.
At the other end of the table, balanced on the back legs of his chair, a teenage boy flips his eyelids inside out and flashes a dimpled, sideways smile. Across from him, another boy nearly the same age laughs approvingly, folds his own eyelids back, and spins toward the little brunette to his right. The small girl shrieks in terror and knocks over her glass, flooding the table with her milk and her tears. Next to her, the oldest girl with the long, straight hair clutches her ears and sighs bitterly, a combustible cloud of teenagery angst.
Milling around in the background is a smiling woman with dark hair stacked high upon her head. Her chair is always empty. She is busy mopping up spilled milk, and stirring pots on the stove, and spooning more corn onto the opera boy’s plate. She gently taps the teenage boys on the shoulder, and their eyelids flip obediently back into place. She cocks her head sympathetically toward her oldest daughter, silently thanking her for the patience she’s not yet mastered. She quietly shushes the blond girl who is not-so-quietly shushing the opera singer with her foot. Serenity momentarily restored, the smiling woman steals one last glance at her husband as she turns back toward the stove. Hands folded, he poses demurely for her approval, his own upper eyelids creased back in unnatural repose.
This is the sixty-year snapshot. This is the moment that has been every moment between I do and I will and I never. This is the picture of consistent effort and effortless laughs. I stare at this still life in constant motion and I know that their love is as dependable as six o’clock on a weekday evening, where six kids can be found seated in six chairs around a table shaped like the number six, and where somewhere in the not so distant distance, the church bells toll six times.
This is the portrait of six decades of love and commitment.
“We can do no great things. Only small things with great love.”- Mother Teresa