– Pablo Picasso
When my son started school with kindergarten 13 years ago, we did what you probably did.
We went outside and took a picture.
I found it last week. It’s dark and grainy because it was taken without a flash early on a cloudy August morning in 1999.
It shows a then-hefty, middle-aged me standing in the driveway next to the mailbox.
My hair is dark and the dress shirt a bit rumpled.
A tie of no clearly discernible color is slightly askew, but I’m smiling at the camera, giving the appearance of a good-natured dad interrupted from his morning rush to work.
The best part, indeed, the photograph’s only redeemable captured moment, is the little boy standing beside me.
It is my son leaning into my leg as if seeking protection, a small sailor grasping the mast as his ship sets out for rough seas.
He looks both shy and concerned.
He’s also really cute.
Little jeans, little kid sneakers. Little golf shirt.
And a backpack, probably just for appearance’s sake because kindergarten homework would no doubt be rare.
We took a photo of the same pose in the same place last week.
There is no little boy in this photo.
He has been replaced with a large, confident, grinning giant who kindly drapes an arm over a gray-haired father, who now looks almost frail beside him.
It was his last day of class.
And the old man standing beside him smiles at the camera (now actually Mom’s cell phone) wondering where the past 13 years have gone.
I truly don’t know.
All those teachers.
All that homework.
All those assignments.
All those projects.
All that homework.
All those trips and adventures and athletic events and proms and socials and study groups.
There were all those calls to the school front office trying to figure out if requirements were fulfilled.
There were all the friends, so close at one time, who have drifted apart or moved away or changed.
Thirteen years have passed in the blink of an eye, concluding this weekend with pomp and circumstance and caps and gowns and family and friends and cameras and celebrations.
It’s a short time but a long way from a picture of a little boy standing with his father in front of the mailbox.