Every time our families get together, my sister-in-law Donna makes us all pose for group shots: year after year, usually in front of a Christmas tree or Easter Baskets. Birthdays, Fathers Days, Mothers Days. Everybody grumbles about it comically, but we cooperate with it and smile and try not to blink. In an age of digital photography, there aren't fat photo albums anymore with pages that stick together slightly with yellowing photos. These will end up on Facebook pages, fancy photo-books printed at CVS, and emails. And this time, a blog.
Why do we need to take these pictures?
If anyone cared to thumb through them, they'd seem the same set of people with occasional subtractions and additions, gradually growing older in front of an unchanging scene of Christmas trees and Easter Baskets and beaches. We imagine we will look back on these years hence and sigh at happy memories, but I'm not sure that ever really happens. We do look over the pictures at our next get-together; this is usually a prelude to taking a family photo.
I think contrary to all logic, the reason we take pictures is not for some future memory but for the present. Standing on the balcony of our condo, smiling and good-naturedly chaffing Donna, "Let's get this over with," we're compelled to freeze in for a minute or two and contemplate the fact that this moment when we are together is a moment worth documenting. We put our arms around each other and smile. We stand close enough our hips are touching. Nancy's hair sometimes gets in my nose. We don't talk; we stop and think. No, we don't even think. We just smile with our arms around each other.