It was a beautiful day. Sun shone through the bright blue midwestern sky. The kids were in a good mood and we were exploring a new place. A beach no less! We trekked across the sand and found a place to put our towels. The kids went right to work digging in the sand and dipping their toes in the water. I immediately reached for my camera. I adjusted the settings and pointed. Nothing. And then an error message. I spent a few minutes messing around with the SD card, to no avail. So I grabbed my phone thinking, Well, this is better than nothing. I touched the camera app. “Cannot take photo. There is not enough available storage.”
So with no option to document the moment, I was left to live in it. Instantly, time felt like it was slowing down. I really noticed the way the sunshine felt, the soft grittiness of the sand, the sound of the tumbling waves. I looked into my kids’ eyes without the barrier of a lens. Instead of observing the action, I jumped in, with an aching awareness that I don’t fully engage as much as I should. What do we sacrifice of the beauty of a moment in favor of sharing and remembering that moment later? Which joy is better, the joy of the present or the joy of the memory? Or maybe these are two values we need to balance, swaying a little, until we find equilibrium.
So for this post, there are no photos. You’ll have to imagine what Arthur looked like buried in the sand at the edge of Lake Michigan, beaming and asking me to pour water over him again and again. You’ll have to imagine the soft white sand and the crashing waves and the faint outlines of the Chicago skyline in the distance. You’ll have to imagine Lucy, the “sand princess,” laying and lounging in the warm sand and William wiggling contentedly under a precariously constructed sunshade made of shoes, bags, a towel, and a beach ball. I don’t have proof that these things happened beyond my own memories. But I do have the memories, smooth, malleable things, unmoored by photographic evidence.