Just a few days ago my wife, my son and I spent part of an afternoon laughing and remembering round a table spread with old photos.
There were shots of our wedding day. We didn’t hire a photographer, we couldn’t afford to, so we asked those of our friends who had cameras to take shots and send us copies of the prints. So they did. And we have loads of candid photos, out of focus ones, photos with stray fingers in the way of the lens, thoroughly unprofessional but gorgeous nonetheless. There are people in those photos who are no longer with us, people whose names I have forgotten, people I haven’t seen in years and years. But they were there. And from our kitchen table, 28 years on, Ade and I sat and remembered and wondered where did the time go.
There were shots of our first family holiday when the kids were just 4 and 18 mths old. We saw strange animals, drove a speed boat up and down a mighty river for several days, met all sorts of characters and reconnected with family. Thing is, my son, now 19 and six foot two remembers none of it, but there in those old photos was the irrefutable evidence that he was there, albeit carried in my arms. And we sat and laughed and remembered and wondered how surely this was only yesterday.
There’s a photo which I found on the Croke Park website and emailed them for a copy. In the photo there’s me Philippa and Christopher, my two kids, my childhood friend Andrew, another friend Mark, his wife Heather and his daughter Sarah, as well as thousands of others. We’re at a Bruce Springsteen concert and Bruce is passing down a walkway right beside us, microphone to his mouth while everyone in the crowd strains forward to see him. I look at it and I smile like it was just yesterday.
In his latest novel “Days Without End” Sebastian Barry tells a story of the passing of time. The narrator, reflecting on a tumultuous life, writes,
“I look back over fifty years of life and I wonder where the years went. I guess they went like that without me noticing much. A man’s memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards.”
The novel is a reminder not to waste the store of days we have been given. “Things that give you heart are rare enough,” says the narrator, “better to note them in your head when you find them and not forget.”
Thought for the Day, broadcast on Radio Ulster on Sunday, 23 April 2017