Thursday, November 15, 2012

Still Life

I should have taken more videos.  All told there are no more than a handful scattered here and there, cell phone videos hastily and randomly assembled in thirty seconds.  There was a video camera, but it seemed so cumbersome despite its point and click functionality. Just that one extra step that seems like one too many when a click of the camera is right at hand. The pictures are less limited. James' brief life was enthusiastically documented by first time parents and grandparents, his every waking moment a photo opportunity.  The number of videos, comparatively, is disappointing. And it's these which I find myself wishing for most now.

It gets harder to remember. Impossible to forget, but harder to remember. Pictures are by definition static. They lack the verve and the immediacy of anything moving. There is no narrative to a portrait, no forward progress. It is simply a declarative statement. Recently, many years overdue, I found myself going through pictures left to me by my grandparents. They are old, capturing people and places I have never known and in many instances cannot identify. On the back of each, in my Grandfather's careful block letters, the words "James Sikes" are written. My grandfather's name. His grandfather's. James'. In many instances there is likely a James Sikes in the photo. A James Warren, a James Franklin, I cannot know. Their names are lost to me with my grandparents, crumbled into memory. Hundreds of people before a church in what I assume is Sikes. In one, I recognize the cemetery. But the photo is old, a corner torn away by an unknown hand decades ago, and the youngest participant, a young blond girl staring with frank curiosity at the photographer, the lone individual apparently aware of him, is undoubtedly dead. In the back of my mind I wonder- when people come upon pictures of James long after I'm gone and no one is left to explain them- what statement will they make?  Young boy? Sick boy? It is hard to tell.

I find myself yearning for videos, stories that can say more about him. Because of course I could not bear for him to be forgotten. There are not many videos however. Some. I've saved most of them, or they're online. I have a bizarre amount of faith in the cloud. I sometimes worry thought that James will one day be reduced to a still life, the picture of a boy, perhaps a sick boy that has nothing to say beyond the fact that he was. I worry that the story will be lost, all the gorgeous details of James' life. His laugh. The way he bounced with joy threw his ball. The tremendous and unbridled joy in his eyes. I was blessed with a happy baby.

This thought is not entirely rational. James has a story, one preserved by the people who knew him and loved him. I am proud of his story, and I am proud of him. Still, I wonder. If only I'd used that camera a few more times, how many more stories might I have? Most of all I just miss him, and would give the world to see him do anything at all. The real stories are those of memory though. And I am fortunate to have more of those than I can forget.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.