Pick a photo, any photo. The rule: it has to come from the vast file of hundreds upon hundreds that go only by number and not name. The moving finger circles, and having circled, descends upon photo #03-slides-33.
And who have we here? Why, I do believe it is little Oatie. Was your nickname already Oatie, back when this photo was taken? But it’s not a photo; it’s a slide, a slide among many other slides, slides that were every couple of years loaded into a fan-cooled slide projector and projected onto a screen set up in the living room.
Here you are, Oatie, sitting in a little white chair. Look at your brown eyes. Look how quietly you gaze into the camera. Who took this photo? Oatie, you look solemn. Do you wish to get down from the little white chair? Are you waiting for someone to spoon food into your mouth? Are you impatient to grow up?
Or do you foresee the day fifteen years from the day this photo was taken, when your family will be in the station wagon, honking the horn, while you – last in the shower line in a one-shower-six-person-family – frantically try to blow dry your hair? Are you already picturing the future blue chair next to the future woodstove in the future kitchen, that blue chair next to the only heat source, and how you will have to fight your sisters for sitting rights?
Perhaps you are looking far, far into the future and inwardly sighing at the knowledge that your large future cat, the large cat that out of the goodness of your heart you rescued from the woods, will in the course of a single morning chew through your phone charger cord, your iPod charger cord, and your camera charger cord.
But these things are many years hence, Oatie. Maybe it’s me you’re looking at now. Am I, the older nicknameless sister, standing beside the grownup taking the photo, waving at you to try to make you smile? Smile, dear little Oatie, smile.