Two weeks ago, in the middle of the week, my five-year old son, Tate, learned to ride his bike without training wheels. It was a big moment.
As I stood in the driveway watching him focus intensely on balancing and wobbling around in a sorta-kinda circle, I noticed the sun setting. Rays reaching above the distant tree line. A scattering of clouds perfectly placed to catch color and glow. And the remaining sky was that Caribbean ocean blue you see in TV commercials.
I told my sons and daughter, as they continued their busyness, that I started taking pictures in my mind when I was a kid. Invisible pictures, so to speak. And, to this day, I can vividly remember certain scenes.
"Take a picture of this evening in your mind," I said. "Look at the sky. Feel the air. Look at where you are standing and what you are wearing. Most importantly, remember exactly how you are feeling right now."
I didn't want Tate to lose that feeling, that moment in time, that he broke a little more free careening toward adulthood.
Bad Tube Socks
I vividly remember sitting on my family's couch in our den when I was kid. I remember the couch. The carpet. The room. I remember exactly where my mom and dad were. My dad was laying on the floor doing something with my sister. And he was wearing those white tube socks with two stripes around the top. You remember those classic late 1970s socks?
I remember feeling like I wanted to cry. I had this overwhelming understanding that my dad was a plain old human being like me, wearing bad socks. And I wanted him to remain superman. I'll never forget that scene in my childhood home, or the feeling of sadness in that moment.
I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at the moon as a kid. I've always been fascinated by astronomy and the Apollo missions. Plus, I was crazy about Star Wars and had that boyish hope that maybe, just maybe, there was more "out there" to discover.
This past Wednesday was the Mid-Autumn festival. It's also called the Moon Festival, or Zhongqiu. Families admire the harvest moon and eat moon cakes and pomelos.
I found myself outside around midnight, staring at the moon while swinging on our kids' swingset. I took a picture in my mind.
On October 13, 1997, which would have made me 25 years old at the time, my new girlfriend and I were on a school playground. Believe it or not, it happened to be the playground of the elementary school I attended as a child in Dalton, Georgia.
We were swinging. And talking. You know, that awkward small talk that happens as tension builds for the first kiss.
I slowly pulled my swing toward her, slipped and nearly fell on my butt. True story.
That kiss was pure magic. I took a picture of it in my mind.
And the girl I happened to kiss eventually accepted my marriage proposal and is in the next room as I write this. We've been married 12 years.
To this day, I still slip and nearly fall on my butt.
Taking Invisible Pictures
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it." Ferris Bueller
Sometimes we feel stuck in a rut, because adulthood is so transactional.
When you take invisible pictures, it forces you to be present in the moment. And it takes deliberate practice.
A couple of days ago, I was back out on the driveway goofing around with my kids. A storm was approaching. My sons, daughter and I laid down on the driveway, faces to the sky, and waited for the rain to come, so we could watch the raindrops hit us in the face.
Tate turned to me and said, "Daddy, I'm taking a picture of this in my mind."
Maybe, just maybe, despite all the doubts and feelings of failure I constantly battle as a husband and parent, I'm doing something right.
Maybe you are too.
The photo above is from one of my all-time favorite movies, Elizabethtown. If you're in the market for a renter, you may want to consider it. Click on the movie name or image above to visit the movie's website.