There’s a beautiful polaroid photograph tucked away in the back of my messy bookshelf. In the midst of thick novels and textbooks, that thin, little treasure sits silently. On the faded polaroid, you can make out the shapes of a sweet couple. They held hands and stood on the cement pathway next to the river. It looked a lot more romantic than it actually must have been. From experience, I knew that river stunk in the summer heat, but in the picture, the waters looked dark and smooth. A large green fence separated the edge of the river from the pathways. On the right side, cars zoomed by the two. The woman wore a simple, fresh summer dress made of white lace. The man had on a polo shirt and khaki shorts. They looked perfect for one another. My parents looked happy in that moment. Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve found this picture if it weren’t for my wild curiosity of digging through old family items. In a dusty album filled with my mother’s days in Germany and the Phillipines, I found this priceless gem. This picture told me a story of my parents that I never knew before. It was who they were before things changed, before reality came and knocked them down. It was before me and before her. It was a time of happiness and “living in the moment”. I think this picture taught me several lessons that I couldn’t really receive anywhere else in the world. First, I realized that unkept promises are not supposed to be lies. When my father told my mother that he loved her, it was not a lie. He meant it in that picture and I know because I can see it in the way he holds and stares into her. But even so, it doesn’t mean that love doesn’t change. He loved her then, but it does not mean he will love her forever. Like how the seasons change, words like these seem empty because they eventually fade away, yet at the time they were said, I’m sure my dad meant it with every bit of his soul. Second, I learned that life will throw the most unexpected adversities at you. Sometimes those difficulties are expected, but usually, they sneak up on you in the dead of night. For some reason, these terrible things usually come up when you’re happy. Seeing them standing together so happily would make anyone think of them as a golden couple. But just a few years after this picture was taken, after this moment, everything changed. Those smiles disappeared. My father’s eyes no longer shined. My mother’s laugh didn’t seem as genuine. And on the day they got a divorce, I was five. I did not think they were ever happy together. I thought it must’ve been a mistake since the beginning, but I was wrong.
After all these years, I understand how much that picture means. Nothing will ever last forever, no matter how strong it is. At night, when I can’t sleep, I still go back and fish that picture out from the back of my bookshelf. I stare at it and hope that one day, I can experience that type of joy and love even if it does not last.