In one of my favorite childhood photos, my mom is holding my two-year-old self by the hand as we make our way down the narrow dock of a lake marina. She is tall and lean; I am short and stumpy. She is relaxed and smiling; I am clutching a blankie and concentrating fiercely on an imperious mallard that seems to be leading us toward shore.
The photo is in black and white. I’m not sure why that is, because our other family pictures from the ’80s are in color. But the layered hills around the glassy harbor are so peaceful in their shades of gray, and the sailboat masts reflected on the water have the same tone as those needling the snow-white sky, and the lack of color seems to complement the still beauty of the scene.
Matt likes this amateur image from a technical standpoint because the trajectory of the dock draws the eye directly to the photo’s subjects. He says it’s as if “all the lines are leading to the future.” I suppose that when you look at any photo, you’re inevitably looking at it from the future. That is where every frozen image takes us. And for me, because I don’t remember this summer stroll along the dock with my mother, the future is all I have of the moment. In twenty years I will still be gazing at the photo, thinking “How exquisite to be a little girl, holding my mother’s hand.”
My mom tells me that I fell into the lake shortly after this picture was taken. That does not surprise me. I was following a duck instead of heeding my mother. I went where the duck went. Somehow he led me here.