Recently I found a flash drive in my purse. I wasn’t sure what it was, so I popped it in the laptop and opened a few files to find that it was the drive given to me by a cousin at Christmas. She had collected, scanned, and organized TONS of family photos. I really need to thank my cousin, because these images are invaluable. There are photos of my grandparents when they were young, my mother and her siblings growing up, my sister and cousins and I growing up, my wedding. Really amazing stuff.
Somehow, out of the hundreds of images, this one stuck me the most.
This is a photo of my parents in the early 70’s, in the beginning of their relationship. There are others in the collection, some much more romantic, others more fun, but this one is the one. I described it to my mom and she knew immediately what I was talking about.
I’m not sure what it is. Somehow it is at once a portrait of my parents, but also of some other couple that I never knew. They are so young and so a part of their time. My dad’s easy smile, the cleft in his chin, the way his shirt sleeves are rolled up, they bring me so close to him when I no longer can be. The part in my mother’s hair, the curve of her shoulder, the shapes of her finger tips, are all things that make her so much the woman who raised me. Yet, the way she stares down the camera, her leg pulled up, her body curved back are evidence of a woman who lived so much life before I came into it.
But it’s the way it seems they were just there, leaning on each other, loving each other, just being, before someone let them know they were snapping a picture – that is what I love so much, the evidence that my parents were a couple long before they were my parents. I never had any doubt that their love brought me into existence. It has always been a fact. There was never any doubt that they were in love.
It doesn’t seem like something that would have worked out. They were working at bar in Savannah, Georgia, far from both of their families. My mom had recently graduated college and my dad was recently divorced. They hadn’t known each other long when he was asking, “do you want to get married?” and she was answering “no,” because she thought he meant it in a rhetorical sense. Then she was saying “yes” because she realized he meant “do you want to marry me?” She sewed a wedding dress and a few weeks later they said “I do” and never looked back. That was 40 years ago today.
I don’t need to say “it wasn’t always perfect” or “of course they sometimes fought” because anyone who knows anything about love knows that. What’s important is that they loved each other, in the most real way. They taught me what a marriage should look like, that it is work, but not too much work. They loved each other until the moment my father died and beyond. They love each other still. Isn’t that the way it should be?