Today I’m noticing something from 16 years ago as if for the first time. (This is legal, by the way! And since I’m being honest about it, does that mean I get extra points?!)
In my clutter clearing that I’ve been doing lately—okay, for my whole life—an old Christmas card of our family fell out of a file folder. It immediately brought a smile to my face and I decided to share it here with you on my (our!) 30-Day Challenge.
Our oldest graduated from high school in 2004, so she would have been in 7th grade when this photo was taken, in October of 1998, so it was exactly (to the month) 16 years ago. This photo makes me realize how quickly time flies. The cute little boy on the left there (5th grade)? He is a husband and father now with a family of his own. The little miss next to her brother (Kindergarten)? She’s a spunky young woman who has been all over the world and is the only one of the family who can write “shepherdess” on her résumé. The beautiful maiden standing behind her little sister? She’s been married eight years and is a powerhouse at her job and in the volunteer work she does. And the loving one on the other side of me (4th grade), the one with her hand placed casually on my shoulder? She’s a recent college grad and first-time homebuyer with her husband of five years. Oh, and the one on the far right, the one who look like Eleanor Roosevelt in this shot? He is my life-partner, co-teacher and co-parent, and he still makes me laugh.
What do I notice in this photo? I love that it’s a snapshot in time, from a time long ago (a lifetime ago!). I love that it shows our family’s silly side (while some of our friends loved this particular card because of its playfulness, others let me know that while they thought it was funny, they couldn’t see what we really looked like or how the kids had grown…).
I notice I was wearing slippers, and the sweatshirt my mom gave me one year for a Christmas gift. I notice that I’m pretty sure all our kids’ clothes were either gifts or hand-me-downs with the exception of Dan’s basketball shirt. I notice that given the way the sky is lit, it’s late in the afternoon. I notice that Mark’s jeans have a hole in them, and he’s wearing a shirt that I bought him when I worked at WearGuard in the early 90s, the job I used to cry while driving to because I was so miserable…
I’m noticing that the little sliver of table in the photo looks almost like a frame—although I could have done a better job and framed all sides of the photo instead of just two sides—and the table brings out the red in the leaves in the front of the photo
I’m noticing that the masks—which were from the British Museum (but that I had bought at a tag sale and had pasted popsicle sticks onto so we could hold them)—had no rhyme or reason to them. Military soldier, little girl with a big black bow, damsel-so-not-in-distress in King Arthur’s Court, military aviator (?), red feathered hat from I don’t know what era, and another military hat (again with the Eleanor Roosevelt!). So the eras and classes would never have come together were it not for this gathering together… I’m noticing that it’s so strange that a piece of cardboard that doesn’t cover up any of our lower face makes it nearly impossible to tell what the person wearing it actually looks like. So those masquerade ball masks must do the same thing (the skeptic in me was always like, “How can’t you tell who the Lone Ranger is? You can see most of his face!)
There are evergreens and deciduous trees behind us, and we’re sitting on the stone wall on the north side of our yard.
The smiles on our faces, the tilt of Dan’s head, Hannah’s crossed legs, her arm draped around me, my hand on Abby’s knee… this tells me that we’re relaxed and having fun with this photo shoot, which I’m sure we’re doing ourselves with a timer—which also explains why Mark is on the far right. I’m sure he planned out where he would sit to make sure he was in the shot.
Noticing something as if for the first time is something I don’t always take the time to do. This reminds me of an article I read from the early 2000s about Cornell med students who were required to take a class at the Frick Museum, with the idea that if they became better observers of visual cues in paintings this would help them have better bedside manners with their patients. It was a fascinating story.
They found that the students who could verbally describe what they were seeing actually noticed more than those who couldn’t describe the painting, or who just hadn’t ever done it before. One woman in the article talked about being in a room with her friend who was scheduled for surgery the next day, obviously frightened and upset, but when the resident came in on rounds he barely looked up from his chart, didn’t notice how she was visibly upset, and therefore missed an opportunity to ask her questions and reassure her. A lesson we could all learn as friends, partners, parents, teachers, students, bosses, customers… beneficial to everyone, not just medical students.
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Original NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/02/health/by-observing-art-med-students-learn-art-of-observation.html
[If the link doesn’t work (if it brings you to the NY Times registration page, for example), google this title and you’ll be able to read the article: By Observing Art, Med Students Learn Art of Observation – The New York Times]
Columbia Medical School and the Frick Collection: http://www.narrativemedicine.org/aim.html
Description of the courses: http://www.narrativemedicine.org/aimseminars.html