Last weekend was a family weekend, as we were able to slip out of town for a bit and see some family that we hadn’t been able to see in person for quite some time. The fact that we were on the coast for the trip, instead of depressingly inland…well, that was just a wonderful bonus.
The last time that I saw my nieces and nephew, they were young. Very young. It’s strange, isn’t it, how that last encounter with someone becomes the fixed image of that person in your mind, even though you know, logically, that they have changed significantly since you last met? This weekend, my nieces were as tall as me, and that is when the realization dawned that it had been nearly five years since I had seem them.
Five years, four major moves, one daughter and two deceased grandparents in between our encounters…and that’s just on our side of the divide.
I often feel trapped by time. That is, I feel as though time is moving so incredibly slowly for me, yet so briskly for everyone else. I always feel that I am being left behind, that I’m somehow chronologically arrested. When I see the evidence of this much change during what I have felt to have been such a brief period of time…and almost non-linear experience…I begin to truly appreciate how briskly life charges forward. Somehow, despite an almost deja vu sensation as this occurs over and over in my life, I’m always surprised by it.
Along with this, I always feel so isolated in my own experiences, to the point of being astounded when I discover how shared our lives are with each other, how much more we hold in common than we hold separately.
Friday evening after dinner, we were walking along the beach. This was a fun area, with lots of shops and restaurants, yet quiet, not overly commercial…a very nice area in coastal Virginia. About eight of us altogether, catching up on what we had missed over those years, and enwrapped in our conversation as will happen in these sorts of reunions. Someone was holding a wedding reception on the beach, and the revelry was contagious. As we walked and talked and laughed, I noticed a man with a camera to our left pointing his lens toward the rocky shoreline to our right, where a young couple was standing. That was when I noticed that he had taken a knee, and that she was in tears, nodding her head in an emphatic “yes.”
We had just walked past a proposal, inadvertently interfering with the photograph of the moment, but experiencing it nonetheless.
We applauded and cheered. In that moment, I remembered Karen’s expression years ago when I revealed a ring over dinner. I saw the man’s face, all smiles and exhausted, nervous relief, accepting our applause in a surreal moment, and I remembered how I felt that evening, when our waitress approached our table in the instant after I had proposed and realized what had happened.
I know nothing of that couple, other than the fact that they are beginning a new adventure together after that night on the beach. I’ve imagined text messages of a ring shared with friends, congratulations and libations shared all around, and I’ll always have the memory of her tearful face and his broad smile in my mind. For that split second, we shared our experiences. I had a privileged glimpse into that couple’s life, and I understood that moment at some level because I had been there. I didn’t talk to them, and likely never will, but I know something of them, and will cherish the fact that we unwittingly encountered that amazing moment.
I feel sort of bad that we messed up the photo, though…