I read something recently which stayed in my head.
Showing people photos of your children is not asking for their honest opinion.
I’ve found this to be the case. I don’t think many of us really care. Not after the first photo, which everyone displays a certain curiosity to see, to see if the baby is normal-looking and doesn’t look possessed and looks vaguely like both parents. Louis CK has a segment saying something similar.
Hypocritical of me then, to write something consisting exclusively of photos of a kind not that removed from the one so far maligned; photos of my parents on the day of their wedding. Photos that tick the same boxes you could argue, photos of people beloved to you, but of no great interest to those whose attention you’re so fervently drawing them to.
But I can justify the below. To start with, photos of the past are more interesting than photos of some unformed future. Which is essentially what photos of kids are, representations of some unclear, little-formed, unpleasantly snot-strewn future.
Secondly, if it wasn’t for the day represented below, I wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t be reading this. So the below relates to you too. The third reason is that it’s topical. My parents got married thirty five years ago yesterday.
They made a swanky photo album.
My Argentine cousins dressed as gauchos.
My grandfather looking pretty 19th Century.
My mother levitating.
The vicar looking like a character from Tintin.
Papa pleased because he made the papers.
My Argentine grandparents looking fly.
Only eyes for one.
My mother having regrets.
Papa getting his gurn on.
The best man.
The Holy Trinity.
Welcome to the faaaamily.
Father and daughter.
Speeches that evening.
My cousin’s thank you letter.
But there’s another reason that these photos are interesting to me. And that’s because recently more than a few of my friends, contemporaries, people I’ve grown up with and known for a decade-plus, have done exactly the same thing as my parents did that day. Get married. And now more than a few of them are having babies. Which is where the showing people photos of your kids diatribe came from.
But the one common denominator in all of this is that not one of them, not from where I was standing, knew a thing about what they were doing. Getting married, getting pregnant, having babies, watching them grow, no-one has the faintest idea what they’re up to. They just style it out. Which is why digging up old photos of a wedding that happened thirty-five years, demanded I reframe my understanding of them.
Where before these faded photographs showed me a man and a woman going through the perfectly rehearsed motions of something they were always meant to do, something predestined, I think differently now.
From seeing my friends fumble and err and style it all out, I realise my parents were none the wiser either. The photos above are documents of this. They didn’t have a clue. At no point throughout any of the day documented above did they know either what they were up to, or what they were letting themselves in for. Growing up we think our parents have all the answers.
They don’t. And we won’t. I assume things will never really make sense. I suppose we begin to care less about understanding nothing.