Photos mark change, consistency - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Photos mark change, consistency

You may think that your latest child or grandchild is the most photographed baby in the whole world. Not so! That title hangs on the wall of Kevin James Grignon, who celebrated his second birthday on Oct. 29.

Kevin is the son of my niece Kathleen and her husband, Mark. From the day of Kevin’s birth they have been taking his picture. By some technology, the nature of which totally eludes me, they kindly keep a network of relatives and friends in touch with the growth of this beautiful child.

Each time a new photo arrives, one can see Kevin’s growth in height and a gradual maturing of his body shape and facial features. It amazes me how rapidly these changes occur — changes that take higher profile, the longer the interval between pictures.

And, the fascination comes from more than just physical growth. It is stimulated as well by Kevin’s various moods and dispositions as they are recorded by the camera. Kathleen and Mark love to send photos of Kevin in a wide variety of garb. I have seen him as pirate, bumble bee, New York Yankee, chef, rock star, janitor and as many other characters. Each motif seems to bring out its own reaction. Over time the pictures, taken collectively, convey a sense of Kevin that is more complete than that offered by any single photo.

My experience tells me that our family is by no means unusual when it comes to capturing in photos the growth and maturation of our children. I think of the pictures I have seen on mantelpieces and refrigerator doors over the years. And, I couldn’t count the number of times I have asked people who have been telling me about their children if they have a photo of them. Well above 99.9 percent respond, “Well, I just happen to have one in my wallet.”

I suppose if we were asked why photos are so important to us, we would give a wide variety of responses. I enjoy them for several reasons. They capture a given moment in the life of an individual or a group of people that, when remembered, puts us in touch with the significance of that time. Taken collectively, they are wonderful reminders of both changes and continuity in life.

The photos tell us that Grandma and Grandpa looked much different on their wedding day than they did at their 50th-anniversary party. But photos also remind us that they are the same couple and that they have grown through the years. And how about Sandra and Milt? Can you believe the changes in them when you compare their kindergarten pictures with their yearbook photos? Think of the incredible things that have happened in their lives!

Finally, I enjoy them because photos lead me to be in touch with what changes and what remains constant in my own life. They set me to thinking about values, relationships and significant experiences. They put me in touch with what fades and what lasts, with what is illusory and what is substantial. In short, they draw me to an awareness of God’s faithful and compassionate love, which is always there for you and me in all of the above.

Someone recently asked me if I could retrieve a photo or two of my ordination as a bishop. I think I have several in an album. I am going to dig it out now and bring it right to him. If I open it and start looking at the pictures, I won’t get anything done today.

Kathleen and Mark are expecting in March. Do you think that Mary/John will be photographed as much as Kevin? Think about it.

Peace to all.

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