Caught: heavier in the hand, a little lighter in the memory

by Sophie

Sophie is an English teacher living in Cambridge. She is currently working on finding the time and a good enough idea to start writing. Here she is at two with her paternal grandfather asleep on the sofa having finished reading a story, and on a different sofa with her maternal grandfather, again caught unawares.

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The camera catches you when you’re not looking. The captor stalks, approaches quickly, quietly; one disturbance and they’ll startle, wake. A still, silent second passes. She squeezes the trigger and departs, leaving the scene exactly as she found it. She knows this is a rare find, the kind of moment that feels rich with retrospect and posterity even before it is developed.

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Months pass. She can’t believe her luck; to see the same creature, the same familiar and obsequious repose, in a completely separate location under the silent guard of another, seems almost immodestly fortunate. Nevertheless, she knows better than to pass up this opportunity. She knows a gift when she sees one.

Years pass. Birthdays, tantrums, health scares and oh my goodness haven’t you grown appear, disappear, reappear. Periodically we return to the pictures, a welcome still point in an ever-accelerating calendar. They’re striking for both their similarities and their differences, in the way incarnations of love always are. One upright and protective, the other laid-back and companionable. One traditional, the other parodic. But, above all else, what stands out is an unspoken, kindred instinct. Written on each face is an inalienable purpose, to care and be cared for.

Time takes a toll of course; only two of the three original subjects remain. Inevitably, one photograph now feels a little heavier in the hand, a little lighter in the memory. We study it more frequently, ask it more questions. It speaks both less and more.

The pictures still hang, proud trophies of an endangered species.