As a teenager I looked through the big box of family photographs often. Pictures from the late 1970s were in albums. They had rounded corners and a vintage feel. As time went by the pictures never made it in to an album. They were in Kodak envelopes, labelled “Rehoboth Beach, 1982.”
Whether the pictures were in books or sorted in to piles there was one thing in common year after year. There were pictures of us sleeping, a tiny Kelly with a Snoopy in a rainbow bedroom, my brother in his Smurf sweatsuit curled up in my dad’s chair. As a teenager I didn’t understand why there were so many of these pictures. We were just sleeping.
My dad used to joke us when we were little, ”You’re good kids, when you’re asleep.” As a parent I can certainly agree. There is little more wonderful than a sleeping child, the frenetic energy of the afternoon exchanged for the slow and steady breath of night.
I spent a lot of time the last few days sitting on the edge of my bed just watching them – my girls, snuggled up asleep. We’ve had five days of Ladies’ Nights. We have had quick dinners and eaten dessert on a blanket in the living room. We watched Footloose and Project Runway and we painted our nails. These little sleeping beauties, they are my good kids – “when [they're] asleep.”
I look at them and I wonder if they will have a childhood like I did. They will ride their bikes, they will play in the creek. They will have birthday parties in our back yard. We will have pizza at the pool. I will take pictures of them while they sleep. It will be the same.
They won’t have a TV Guide to circle their Saturday morning cartoon choices. They won’t tie an index card with their name and address to a balloon and set it free, hoping against hope for a reply in the mail some day. They will not likely ever have a teacher that calls their handouts “dittos.” And unless I print some of these images their teenage selves might not roll their eyes at the numerous pictures of them sleeping. Many things will be different.
When I was a little girl and I was waiting for the bus to come in the morning I would watch the sky. There is a moment when the sky goes from pink to tan right before the sun comes up, right before the school bus comes. I used to pretend that my whole neighborhood was inside a paper shopping bag. This morning while Emily was putting her shoes on and Lucy was still asleep I stepped outside on to the deck and looked at the sky. There was a paper bag all around me.
The sky turned from tan to sunlit before Em finished tying her shoes. I need to remember to show my girls the paper bag that surrounds us. I need to do it quickly while they still remember what a paper shopping bag looks like. A few more years from now you might not ever see one at the store. The only paper bag left will be the one that surrounds my neighborhood early in the morning. Their childhood is different. But it is the same.