That’s my son Michael in the photo right there. He might be a month old, maybe two. He’s asleep. I’m in the picture, and my wife, Elvira, is there, too, leaning toward him. We’re both smiling. Our faces seem to say, We have our own kid now—yay!
Michael is also in the next photo, cradled in his mother’s arms. Her palm is flat on his belly. His face round, his complexion fair. His mouth is moist and his nose, just a button. He’s wearing a soft, fuzzy, eggshell-blue onesie. He’s as asleep as only a baby can be asleep, cozy in his mother’s nestling arms. Perfect harmony captured for all time.
Now here’s Michael on another day, but with Grandma Nettie. She’s at our dining-room table, holding him gingerly, as if he were a trophy just bestowed on her. She’s leaning to her right to position herself precisely for a single purpose: to take in the sight of her first grandchild. Her face is cast in shadow, but you can still make out her smile.
But now look at what else is going on in this photo. Michael is perched in her arms, in his diaper and bare feet, and he’s staring at her. And his mouth is open.
It’s as if he’s saying, Oh.
It’s as if he’s saying, Wow.
Grandma Nettie is marveling at Michael, and Michael is marveling right back. Some serious mutual marveling is going on here.
Here’s Michael in the bathtub, now about six and a half years old, and up to his chest in white, foamy bubbles. He’s smiling widely, his tongue halfway out. It’s because once again he has some company in there, namely his one-year-old sister Caroline.
Hey, his smile says, I’m taking a bubble bath with my little sister!
Hey, her smile says, I’m taking a bubble bath with my big brother!
I stare at that photo and ask myself, Were a brother and sister ever happier than in this moment?
First his mother, then his grandmother, and now his sister: surrounded by women, no little boy ever had it so good.
In case you ever doubt your memories, you can easily check. Just look at the pictures. And then look again. Eventually, everything comes into focus. You get a second chance to see your child for the first time. The photos also confirm the love you felt in those intimate moments. They also reveal just how deep it goes.
Bob Brody, a New York City executive, essayist and father of two, is the author of the memoir Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age.