When I was a little girl, I used to cry at my birthday parties when people started to sing “Happy Birthday,” and even more when I was forced to have my picture taken.
I’ve retained both, my dislike for birthdays and for being in photos, although not as intensely. You might not believe me, but I still haven’t taken a selfie. I really don’t get this overtly narcissistic method of self-expression.
However, lately, too many signs have been pointing me towards the need for a new direction. The most recent one happened yesterday morning. My husband handed me a disc, the result of his efforts to digitize the children’s home movies, and urged me to watch.
One click later, I was seeing this gorgeous 6-month old (who is now 13 and taller than me) trying to say “mama and papa,” and smiling at all the nonsensical off-camera blabber that I’m using to communicate with him. It took all the strength I had (and I don’t have much before my morning coffee) not to burst into tears and into nonsensical blabber, albeit a new, more mature version.
My husband also appears on the video looking 13 years younger, slimmer with more hair, and looking absolutely giddy at cleaning up a spill on the floor (confirmed by the kiss he blows at the camera [me] when he’s done). Ah, those were the days! But why do they seem at times so far away and at others like if they happened yesterday?
A friend who I haven’t seen in many years, and who recently found me through the wonder of the internet, wrote to me that time is an illusion. I’ve always believed that. Although, paradoxically I also believed for the longest time that having children and watching them grow was the surest way to age (or to be aware of one’s ageing).
I was wrong about that. Today, I feel the same way I did 13 years ago when my first son was born, which reminds me of a joke another friend of mine once told me: [Tweet “”Inside every old man there’s a young one saying ‘WTF, am I doing in here?'””] This, in turn, reminds me of the time I was sitting on a toilet, in a vacation rental in Paris in the middle of December, 10 years ago. At that time, we were living in Hong Kong, and had asked our families to meet us halfway in Paris in order to introduce our second son who had been born two months before in October.
In that stall-size room designed to hold just one toilet, as is typical in French homes, I faced two photos, a young Jerry Lewis and an older Jerry Lewis occupying a very honorable place across “the throne.” I’m not being sarcastic, the French really love him.
Seeing how time had altered him, the importance of taking photos struck me. I realized then that at some point in my life, I will want to see—and show others— what I looked like when I was younger, when I was young.
But, after the trip, I soon forgot my intention of making myself more present during photo-taking time. I have a few photos here and there in the past decade, but nothing to show a real commitment to visually document my life.
I forgot about Jerry Lewis…
Until yesterday. Yesterday, watching my beautiful baby boy saying “baba….mama,” I realized that I should have taken a zillion more videos, and a zillion more photos, and that I should’ve been present in at least half a zillion of them.
I think that it’s wisdom making me feel this way, the knowledge that time passes faster than we realize and that we can never get it back; or it could be that I’m as much of a narcissist (although undoubtedly covert) as all those going around shooting themselves (with a camera).
I’m tempted to sit here and try to figure it out. But, I think I’ll go take my first selfie, instead. Time is flying by.