We have this little ritual that we have started since the loss of Colin and Madeline. It isn’t a formal tradition and we have actually never acknowledged to each other that we do it. It was sort of deliberate on my part, but I never imagined it would turn out like this.
The issue is neither Colin or I were terribly good at remembering to take pictures. Most family holidays that we do have photos of are because of other aunts, parents, or relatives. Any vacations that we took will have only a handful of memories captured on film and most of those will be from a specific moment as we tried to have at least one good shot. And even our first child’s photo album stats would probably rank closer to the typical third or fourth child in regular families. There are times when I regret not having a particular shot or moment framed, but I also know that it does mean that we were very present for each of those occasions as we were not fumbling with a camera. This is not a knock on anybody else, this was just the silver lining that Colin and I chose to celebrate as we identified this shortcoming.
When all you are left with is photographs and memories a lack of pictures can be disappointing. So I have tried to enjoy the ones that we do have, and mostly relive all the memories. So throughout the day, in all our activities, I share my memories with the boys and they share theirs with me. They can be simple or special or deep or funny.
And it’s not just the memories that we visit, but the stuff you can’t take pictures of. The feelings and the thoughts and the ideas that they had. Taking the time to consider how they would have impacted and changed every experience that we are having. From something as basic as mealtime to things as extravagant as Disneyland.
And for some reason it evolved into: “Could Madeline run now?” “Would she fit into these shoes?” “Do you think Daddy would like our new truck?” “Would he have been proud of the touchdown I made?” “Do you think Madeline would have liked peanut butter?” “Do you know if Daddy would have been good at this?” “What words would Madeline be saying now?” “Would Dad like Monopoly or Go Fish better?” The 20 questions of speculation.
So when Emmett said at the supper table, “I’ve got one for you! What are 5 foods Daddy didn’t like?” I really had to think. Colin appreciated food, good food. He was a delight to cook and bake for because food moved him. You would know when he liked something, and he liked a lot of things.
So I really had to dig to find foods he didn’t like. Number one was chickpeas, there is a story there so I knew that one for sure. Two was Dates, it was a texture thing. Tofu was three, we had an opportunity to eat traditional Japanese food when we were dating and he did not have seconds. And Eggplant, though I don’t actually know if he had really tried it.
For the life of me though I couldn’t think of a fifth. Even with the boys “help” we could not come up with one more. The boys surmised that their Dad loved food so they weren’t shocked that there was only four. And they were sure he would have loved our supper too. And even Madeline if she was old enough to have it.
And so we travel this road as we try to think what these moments would be like if they were here with us. As if we are getting to know and reacquainting ourselves with who they were or would have been. Sometimes the answers are easy because I knew him so well. Other times the answers are contemplative as we hardly got to know her at all. But in it all they both become so real again. We can clearly see how they fit, how they have never left our hearts and our home. How these conversations, this game we play, is so much better than any photograph we have.