Make Pictures of Yourself
I am a father now. I have a son. I have a wife AND a son, and I am thirty years old.
I was at Target the other day buying diapers for my son and little glass bottles for my wife to pump breast milk into. If you don't already know, you would not believe me if I told you how quickly your freezer can fill up with breast milk.
A copy of Field of Dreams called out to me from the "Family Time" section of Target. Because I am a family man now, I felt like I belonged in that section, like it was OK for me to browse the shelves in that aisle. Field of Dreams and Dances With Wolves were each on sale for five dollars. I love these two movies, and want my son, Atlas, to see them someday, so I bought both.
I watched Field of Dreams later that evening, and was shocked at how slow and boring the first thirty minutes are. The plot takes its time thickening, but when it finally does, it is really thick, and extremely enjoyable. My son fell asleep but that is because he's too young. My wife, Paris, almost fell asleep, but pulled out of her nose-dive towards slumber when Ray Kinsella's wife defends the writing of Terence Mann at an Iowa PTA meeting.
Like most people, I too burst into tears near the end of the movie when Ray Kinsella meets a younger version of his dad on the baseball diamond in that corn field. I cry for several reasons. Most of all, I cry because that part is about getting a second chance to apologize to your dad for being a jerk so many times in the past. I have been a jerk many times, to my dad and to countless other people, and the idea that you could one day have the balls to acknowledge that you were a jerk and to ALSO say that you're sorry is a very beautiful idea. But I also cry because that scene is about our mortality. We are born young and beautiful and nearly invincible, but through life we are worn and beaten. We are extraordinarily beautiful in our youth, partly because of all the potential stored in our future, and when Ray Kinsella sees his father as a young man — at an age before he had his son Ray — Ray is blown away at how young and innocent his father is, he says something like, "God look at him. He's got his whole life ahead of him, and I'm not even a glint in his eye."
This evening I was looking for a file on my computer, and stumbled across some self portraits I made five years ago when we first moved to Chicago. When I saw that twenty-five year old version of myself, looking back at the camera through the screened door of our old kitchen I took in a sharp breath. I had long forgotten about the photos, which I playfully made on a lazy Saturday morning many summers past, and to suddenly look into the eyes of a much younger version of myself was like seeing a ghost. For the first time in my life, I recognize today that I am walking out of my youth, and over the threshold into post-youth living. Perhaps this is because I am a father now, or simply because I am no longer in my twenties. Like Ray Kinsella, when I saw that photo I thought to myself, "Damn, look at that kid. He's got his whole life ahead of him, and Atlas isn't even a glint in his eye."
Of course thirty is not old, and I likely have a minimum of fifty years left to cause trouble all over the world. I am not even half way through life, nor even a third of the way if I've got any say in the matter. But this does not change the effect that old photos can have on us, for even as children we are blown away when browsing through our baby photos. Pictures are powerful, and remain so even though our cultural landscape is saturated with them.
I'm not sure why I wrote all this. Maybe just as a reminder to my future self to keep making self portraits every once in a while. Time is a funny thing, as I'm sure you know. I guess this is just a message in a bottle that I hope to find later on in life. Don't waste time. Live your life ambitiously and bravely. Our time is short, but wonderful. Go big or go home.