Uppermost House: The same only better

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

The first things that most people want to save when their house catches fire (after the kids, the widescreen TV, and the hamster, of course) are photographs. I’ve always wondered about that. Perhaps, it’s because a lot of us still like to think of ourselves as who we used to think we were — it’s why we look in the mirror and sometimes see somebody else.

And the irony is that the picture you so quickly stash upside-down in your sock drawer when the neighbors knock unexpectedly on your front door is the same picture you now want to charge back into the blazing inferno to rescue even though your wife’s got a wad of your bathrobe in her fist and is yelling Buster, it just ain’t worth it in your ear as loud as she can. It’s the same photo that your brother in-law once saw and said, That sure looks like polyester and you said, No, that’s a fine linen suit and then he looked down at the floor and said, I was talkin’ about your hair.

Like the rest of you, I have images of my family in my office. There’s an old B&W photo of my son riding away from me down a dirt road on his bicycle when he was about six, and a from-the-waist-down self-portrait of my teenage daughter and me standing in front of our barn in our rubber boots after mucking out a horse stall.

And I have two photographs of my wife, Karen. On a shelf right above my desk, in the cheap plastic frame supplied by the photographer, is the engagement photo that ran in the local paper in the summer of 1981. She was just 21, all soft and new and airbrushed. And on the background of my computer screen (the first thing I see each morning when I get to work) is a picture of Karen and me taken just last year. Between these two images are a pair of children, seven homes, a dozen cars, many job changes, two college degrees, a decade of homeschooling, a ridiculous number of cats, various and sundry trials, frustrations, and tragedies, too many wonderful church services to number, countless prayers together, and now (still walking hand-in-hand) an empty nest, a new granddaughter, and Skype. Bookends to a good chunk of a challenging-yet-joyful life together.

I look at those two photos all the time. The engagement picture is always just a quick glance to my right, and I can (and do) catch it anytime I want. To see the recent photo, the one on my computer screen, I need to minimize all the various files and software programs I’m running so they drop out of sight. And then my bride just pops up. I minimize a lot.

And when I look at those two photos, back and forth and then forth and back again, I see the same smile and the same hair and the same dark eyes in both of them. And I blink and I stare; but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t tell the difference. Oh sure, you’ll say. He’s just seeing now what he used to see then. This is the same guy that looks in the mirror and doesn’t see any gray hair. And you might right.

Maybe, if I could wrench my heart away for just a moment and look at those two photographs of my wife with the cold objective eye of say, a geologist, I’d see the difference the decades made.

Okay, I’ll do it. Hold on please… Yes, you were right after all. She is so much more precious and beautiful now.

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