from a photo in the Times

Before he uploaded that photo of you on his page, there were other photos of you, many of them, and we have them all. We have boxes of them. And we have books that your mother tucked photos of you into, books with acid-free pages, organized  chronologically, each one labeled with a date and description in black Sharpie. Somewhere there’s a photo of her pregnant with you, hands holding up her swelling belly. Photos of you with your big sister, hovering over you? Dozens of them. She’s pushing you in your stroller down the sidewalk. She’s trying to give you a bottle. She’s standing beside you next to a Christmas tree bright with lights. You and her on the first day of school, every year. I’m picturing them now, all those photos of you. Splashing in the kitchen sink. Smearing spaghetti on your face in a high chair. On a tricycle. On a bicycle. On rollerblades. On ice skates. Come with me now, into the house, down the hall with the row of framed school photos, you, shoulders back and hair combed, smiling for the camera. Oh that must be first grade, that’s when you lost your first tooth. Third grade, remember that sweater? Birthday parties, family reunions, restaurant dinners. Prom. High school graduation, there you are in your robe and there you are turning the tassel to the other side, and there you are throwing it into the air, and there you are standing in front of that big quarter-sheet cake, the one that says Congratulations Graduate in green icing. College now, and summers home, and there you are with that haircut you hated, and there you are in your new bathing suit, and there you are with your new boyfriend, the one we all liked, and there you are with that other one, the one we weren’t so sure of, and here you are, standing in the doorway of your first apartment, yes, that’s it, that right there is your first apartment, and how you loved it, and how we loved that you were so happy there, and remember the first time you made us dinner there, and you bought those tall white candles and we admired them, they were so grownup, and you were so grownup, pouring us wine and bringing out that dessert, what was the name of it, and us refusing seconds but urging thirds on you because you were thinning down, that’s what happens when girls turn into women with busy lives and busy jobs and friends and so many things in their lives to love, they get thin, they’re going going going all the time, and let’s go back and just look at you in this doorway again, your first apartment. We’re going to put this photo away now, because this apartment is the one where we found you, where we found you, beautiful girl, girl we loved and tried to keep safe your whole life long, wanted to keep safe your whole life long, would have laid down our lives to keep safe. We will not look at this photo anymore. We will put it away now. So many photos we have of you, hundreds, thousands, and that one, the one we didn’t take, the one he took, he who didn’t know you, didn’t love you, didn’t care about you, didn’t didn’t didn’t didn’t didn’t know you didn’t love you didn’t want to keep you safe is the one that the world saw, because he put it up for the world to see. And is his mother out there, and is she sitting in a dark room now, holding a box of photos of her little boy, because even he was a little boy once, everyone in this world is someone’s child, and that is what he forgot, or chose not to remember.


  1. John Steinecke · March 31, 2011

    This is heartrending, Alison. Beautifully done and haunting.


  2. Hope · March 31, 2011

    Wow. A horrific story and a beautiful response.


  3. hhb · April 1, 2011

    No words…..


  4. Edi Bruscella-Devine · April 2, 2011

    Alison, this is absolutely beautiful. Thank you. Again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s