Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Here's a rare Jamesie with a hat picture. Before he was born Kara went on a hat buying binge, one for each outfit. I think hats were big that year or something. Of course, once he was born he had so much hair that hats were completely superfluous.
I still look at his pictures a lot. Probably more than I should. They induce a weird melancholy reverie that resonates for a while afterwards. This is not necessarily an exclusively sad emotion, James is very joyful in his pictures, we have a lot of good memories. I can place each to a time and a place when we were together and doing something much more fun than laying around in hospital beds. His newborn pictures- the picture on my bulletin board at work is from that shoot. In that one, I'm cradling him in my arms and the angle makes it look as though I'm holding him up. I remember posing for the picture, James lying down with me behind him and my arms awkwardly crooked forward to wrap around him, the photographer standing above us to create the effect in the picture where it appears that I'm dangling him stork-like into the frame. Different outfits he wore, from the polo shirt we buried him in to the madras shorts Kara bought for him in the spring. They all have a certain resonance. It was hard at first to look at all, but it comes easier now.
Yet I sometimes wonder if the pictures don't lull me into some kind of false memory. Each is frozen, a still life without context outside of memory. In real life James was never still. Taking his picture was difficult because he absolutely refused to sit still. We called him our little wiggleworm because he squirmed constantly and contorted himself into bizarre positions that strongly suggested he had a career in gymnastics ahead of him. Even in the womb, James refused to adopt the ideal position. A few weeks before he was born he was breeched and sunny side up, well past the point at which he was supposed to line up. Eventually, he grudgingly flipped around but remained stubbornly sunny side up, one of the complications along with the cord wrapped around his neck that would ultimately force his C-section. As a baby he moved around constantly, flailing his arms and aiming (unsuccessfully, fortunately) for barrel rolls at just a few weeks old. Shortly before he got sick he figured out how to inch-worm on the floor and made quick use of his new abilities. More than just his body moving his eyes were always probing, darting inquisitively from one item to the next. Except for sleeping (where he often tried to roll over) I honestly doubt that the boy spent even one minute of his life completely still.
But in the pictures he's always still. So I worry sometimes that I'm slowly displacing the reality of him with these piecemeal moments captured in photographs, played over and over in my head when I look over them. I worry that my memory of my son is calcifying into something static and untrue, the creation more of the present than the past. And I don't know what to do about that. How do you ensure the fidelity of a memory? How to you preserve all the moving parts on loop in your head, how many moments have I already lost to sleep and time? There's a very real element of fear there. I'll never forget James, clearly, but will I remember him as he was or will I slowly allow the pictures and still frames to replace the reality. On one level it's a ridiculous concern. How can I forget? On another it's frightening, yet another hallmark of just how long it's been. In the absence of new memories the preservation of old ones becomes ever more important. I say that. I even feel that sometimes. But I don't think it's true. You're not mourning simulacrum of someone you lost, not the specific way they moved or shook their head. You're mourning the sum of them, the package. That I think is harder to forget. Still, I worry. As is so often the case knowing and believing something does not necessarily translate into feeling it.
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.