when i was very small, mother’s parents visited. with them came my aunt and my cousin. all together there were eleven of us. being small and shy, i stuck close to dad.
papa decreed there should be a snapshot of all of us, excepting him. he was to take the snapshot. the preparations were made, with all the people shuffled about a few times. mostly, the grownups were settled on the sofa. the children were placed on the floor, at their feet.
dad sat in his rocky, swivel chair. i fussed until the camera and people and papa were ready. with papa barking orders and all the people trying to settle, dad scooped me up and kept me on his lap in the chair.
he spoke quietly in my ear. sit back he said. i don’t want my picture i said. i don’t want it either he said. then why i said. sit back he said my chair is magic.
i sat back and he leaned his rocky swivel chair back as far as it would go. i was reclined along dad quite comfortably. while we waited for papa to finish his preparations, dad kept me busy by holding me close and making his magic chair rock, swivel and spin. i felt a little apprehensive. these were different kinds of movements for me.
the snapshot was made, and i was released to my feet. i followed mother and my sister into the kitchen to get underfoot while dishes were cleaned and put away. more than once i was told to go play. more than once, i did not.
a long, long, long time later, i came across that snapshot. the eyes of my cousin were red. the twins smiled brightly, showing some missing teeth. mother, aunt and grandmother sat like clones, all with hands folded and feet crossed the same way. my sister was beautiful and my brother looked as if he couldn’t wait to get away. dad and i were reclined comfortably in the magic chair. we did not smile.
i had forgotten about that day until the snapshot reminded me. i was reminded that dad always kept me close and safe and comfortable. and even though i was an afterthought in that house to most… dad kept me up front, in the snapshot, in his mind and in his heart. while things changed and people and places changed, my dad was always the same. he was aware of me and my feelings and my heart. he always talked to me, even if he couldn’t answer all the questions. one thing i always knew, through all the turmoil, was that my dad loved me. every day.