I wish Norman Rockwell had been there. Scenes like those were the stuff that inspired him, I think. The little moments in life. Something so ordinary it resonated with audiences and became extraordinary. Rockwell had an eye for those moments. He captured the humor, the sweetness, the tenderness. Then he, or a Saturday Evening Post editor, enhanced the image with a simple but fitting caption.
I wish I were artistic or had my camera when those moments happened. Instead, all I can do is snapshot the scenes in my mind, trying to imprint every detail for later recall. I realize now that I have a mental scrapbook of moments like these. And while it can be a delight to peruse them, I wish I could free them from those solitary pages to share with others. But like dreams, these pictures and their emotions can rarely be brought to light without losing the meaning that I feel so keenly. A glimmering quality is lost in translation. Words can’t capture the entirety of what I try to communicate. I doubt even the best writers communicate a thought or a picture as perfectly as they want—at least not often.
If people gave up because they knew perfection were impossible, though, where would we be? Only by trying will we improve, so here I am. Spilling my thoughts and stretching out the moments until I make the jump. Here I go.
“Look, Elaine.” My sister and I had just slid into her car after a brief shopping expedition. I was pointing across the parking lot.
“I wish I had my camera and could capture moments like these,” I commented wistfully, as my sister looked too. “Isn’t that sweet?”
What had caught my attention was a uniformed police officer. Standing at a corner of the sidewalk, he was approaching a woman who was walking her German shepherd mix dog, and by his body language, I could tell he was asking if he could pet the dog. The woman agreed, and the officer bent down and tentatively reached out to introduce himself to the canine, who appeared to be a bit uncertain about the acquaintanceship. It was a moment of vulnerability for both. An ordinary scene that I had never seen before. The dog obliged and let his head be petted as my sister and I drove away.
Here was a little moment in time where a police officer was an ordinary guy who liked dogs. I wish I could have shared that occurrence with others as vividly as I experienced it.
A silly, optimistic part of me imagines that this Rockwell scene could change people’s perspectives and combat their prejudices. But the moment these scenes become publicity, they tend to lose their credibility. I think that was part of the appeal of the moment. The people didn’t know they were being watched, which made the scene that much more touching.
Rainy Day Melancholy
I was eating a meal with some friends when something beyond the cafeteria window caught my eye.
“That’s so sad, isn’t it?” I commented, pointing out what I had just noticed to my friends, who turned to see for themselves.
“It’s the picture of finals week,” I continued.
“Yeah, that is pretty sad,” one of my friends agreed.
Trudging past the window was a dripping college student. A bedraggled black umbrella drooped from his hand, almost unidentifiable. It looked more like a kite than an umbrella, its tines bent and fabric torn into triangle-shaped scraps. The student gazed at his umbrella with an attitude that seemed to mimic the mournful appearance of the umbrella.
I felt so sad for him when I saw his expression as he contemplated his ruined umbrella. I hoped that his day improved and that what I saw in passing didn’t summarize how his finals were going. Despite my sympathy, though, I admit there was something comical in the scene. What I saw was the weird juxtaposition that Rockwell would capture, where a scene walked the tightrope between sorrow and humor, where perhaps one person took something a little too seriously when others wouldn’t. It was just an umbrella, after all. But I think I understand.