PICTURE IT By Lori A Alicea

Christmas thirty years ago, I never pictured it.

Christmas thirty years ago, if you could picture it, was just the three of us, a newly single mother watching her two young children sit in front of the camera for their annual holiday portrait, an insert to the family Christmas card.
XMAS Jake and Candy 2Back in the day, portrait studios were located in the “big box stores”. Closer to the holiday when I usually scheduled our photo session, multiple procrastinated families like mine crowded the couches waiting impatiently for their name to be called, as photographers were unfortunately behind schedule during the final weeks of Christmas.
XMAS Jake and CandyI doubt any young mother pictures it, and I was no exception.
I didn’t think of it, I didn’t imagine it.
I wasn’t in denial, I just didn’t picture it.

I doubt most of us picture it although it’s happening to us all.

The only picture that mattered to me thirty years ago were those of my little boy and girl dressed in their holiday best.

An annual gift wrapped up as a Christmas portrait that only a mother could truly appreciate; a parent’s attempt in preserving the Christmas faces of her children as a keepsake to reflect on when the passage of time caught them growing up.
XMAS Jake and Candy 1I never pictured it until thirty years later when I opened up a packed box of my mother’s belongings, finding a stack of clippings from my old column she saved, stumbling upon a specific column that took me back to the portrait studio where I picked up my children’s Christmas pictures for the holiday season that year.
XMAS Jake and Candy 3EVERYONE’S LIFE IS A STORY WAITING TO BE TOLD
By Lori A. Alicea

No telling how many people cross our path and we never know their name or story.  Faces are everywhere.  Crowded streets; busy stores.  We rub shoulders, but barely make eye contact.  We all have a story, but who takes the time to wonder?

Waiting for my purchase at a local Photography store, I got my first glimpse of him, an old man with downy white hair, possibly in his eighties, sporting an old flannel shirt and yellowed jeans, wearing shoes that had seen better days.

This man didn’t see me as he entered the store, but I followed him around with wondering eyes.

Sitting close by, the exchange between the old man and clerk was audible.  He inquired about the special.  By his casual appearance I assumed a future appointment was in the making.  Assuming wrong, he reached for a coupon from his pocket for a portrait taken that morning.

Directed to the sofa by me, we both sat in silence.  I could hear grandpa’s labored breathing.  I watched grandpa’s wrinkled hands folded, as if in quiet prayer.

In that moment the words to an old song began to play in my head, “If a picture paints a thousand words”.  In that song I began to wonder about the words that painted this old man’s portrait.

Father? Husband? Friend? Lonely? Happy? Rich? Poor?  Who was this person?  Surely he belonged to somebody.  Was grandma alive?  Did grandpa have kids?  If so, do they call?  What about his dreams?  Fulfilled?

Encouraged by a mutual smile, grandpa and I engaged in conversation.

Grandpa told me he was having his picture taken to send in cards to his family.  Grandpa said he didn’t know how long he’d be around, and wanted everyone to have a picture to remember him by.

What a beautiful man, what a lovely idea.  An old man with a story, a book destined to be a best seller, a picture of a thousand words.

I wish I had an extra hour to hear the “rest of his story”, but the clerk was calling my name.

I purchased my pictures and turned around to leave, but stopped long enough to smile at the old man and bid him good-by.  Grandpa smiled back and wished me the same.

Weeks later I wondered about grandpa.  Was grandpa’s picture a delight to whom ever received it?  Was grandpa’s picture a reminder to spend more time with him?  Did grandpa’s card get lost on the stack of other mail?

My questions will remain unanswered.  But that day an old man reminded me no life should ever go unnoticed.  That each life is a picture of a thousand words, a story worthy to be read.

…………………………………………..

Thirty years ago I was in my late twenties and the eighty year old man in the story could have been great-grandfather.
great grandpa in ava illinois

Thirty years later and I now thirty years older, the eighty year old man in the story could have been my father.
dad and cookiesYou never picture it when the “second hand” of your life’s clock is ticking down the minutes.

You never picture it when you’re blowing out another candle on your birthday cake.

You picture it through the lens of the old photographs taken of you in your twenties, thirties, forties and those fifties, soon to open a new chapter in my sixties, when you wonder:

How can it be that so much time has passed since my young children sat in front of the Christmas camera, kids who have grown up themselves and are now taking pictures of their own family at Christmas.

We must picture it that age can’t be controlled any more than the weather.

But you can number your days; to keep watch and value the life you have been given; to not waste our minutes and hours on matters that don’t matter.

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.”
Psalm 39:4 NIV

 …What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4:14 NIV

In twenty years I will have attained the age of the man in the story.

Twenty short years and beyond;

I need to picture the impact I want to make with my days and live it in front of the lens and those I am sharing my life with.

Might the story of my life and the story of your life boast a best seller.

Might the story of the old man in the Photo store cause us to be more vigilant and read between the lines of those we rub shoulders with; even strangers we share a couch with for a few brief minutes while waiting, because:

… an old man reminded me no life should ever go unnoticed.
That each life is a picture of a thousand words, a story worthy to be read.

Rock-A-BYE BYE the Years By Lori A Alicea

You don’t think about it during the bedtime hour while rocking your grandchild to a peaceful sleep. That gentle back-and-forth sway of the chair accompanied by a grandmother’s quiet whisper of Rock-A-Bye-Baby, together circling the moon and starry skies along the way to a child’s land of sweet dreams.
Me kissing Kizzie head USE THISYou don’t think about it while staring in the stillness of a child’s face, whose long eyelashes flutter between rest and slumber resembling butterfly wings flittering in a grassy field of wild flowers.
Kizzie no thumb USE THISYou don’t think about it when a child’s pacifier, security blanket and lullaby of a grandmother’s heartbeat calms their innocent worries.
Kizzie in chair sucking thumb USE THISYou don’t think about it when a child’s piggies and a child’s sweet toes have all been counted like sheep to be whisked away to sleep.

It’s in this moment when a grandmother stares into the innocent face of her sleeping grandchild, slightly grazing those rosy cheeks and ears with her fingertips and gently kissing the top of this precious child’s head when she realizes that all her grandbabies are no longer babies anymore.
Kizzie asleep USE THISIt happens just that fast.
It happens when you least expect it;
It happens when you close your eyes for just a second;
It happens when you look the other way momentarily;
It happens though you think that day is years from now.
Yet that bittersweet day finally comes and it has happened to us.
We bid Rock-A-BYE BYE the Years.

Our ten grandbabies are no longer babies anymore.
Kizzie by rose bush USE THIS 1Though our youngest grandchild hasn’t let go of the comforts she enjoyed as a baby just yet, her pretty pink boots tells the story of the steps she’s beginning to take into a little girl’s life.
Kizzie by rocks 10Climbing new heights and discovering her world revealed in the smallest of details, this child is growing up, no longer a baby anymore.

She’ll steal the hearts of many as she already has this grandmother.
Kizzie dressHow I wish Our Rock-A-Bye memories made together could somehow remain in pause, at least for a few extra unexpected trips around the moon.
Kizzie asleep USE THISHow I wish I wouldn’t have been caught up in the chaos of bottles, dirty diapers and sleeplessness during the midnight feedings when the other nine grandbabies had their time with me in the rocking chair. I know I cradled and adored them as they all slept in my arms.

Yet I wish my lullaby playlist would have had a few more selections.
I wish I wouldn’t have been so concerned about the kitchen sink full of dishes or the laundry billowing over to the floor.
I just wish I had believed when others told me that time with them as babies escapes as quickly as the spoken words from our mouth.

May the memo get passed around to enjoy the moments, however big or small, of every day with them.
Savor the little things with them.
Capture their world in a time capsule and bury it in your heart.
RSVP as their favorite invited guest to a child’s tea party.
Remembering it doesn’t take much to make them smile.
Another trip to the park; a walk to the ice cream store.
It won’t cost you anything but being present in their life.

Because one day, a day closer than imagined.
One day where swings and slides will no longer interest them.
One day on the other side of the park, where a new field of their life awaits them to discover.
kizzie walking with sisters USE THISA day you’ll bid Rock-A-BYE BYE the Years.

A “CHIPS AND POP” KIND OF DAD By Lori A Alicea

Daddy’s are one of a kind.  Not a cookie cutter in the bunch.  Their personalities outnumber the thirty-one flavors at the ice cream parlor.  Dads come in all sizes and shapes.  Dads get up every morning to jobs that are as night and day from the other.  In my family alone we have a control room operator, mill guy, custodian, truck driver, dentist and a funeral director; all million dollar hard workers, dedicated at providing the best care for their families.

Daddies are the centerpiece of the home.  The table set isn’t complete without their presence centered in the hearts of their children.  The impact they have follows through the generations.  The hand-print they leave doesn’t involve money or lavished gifts.  Their legacy will be written in memories broken down in moments, small pockets of time spent for no other reason than “just because.”

A few months ago at their papa’s 60th birthday party, the grandchildren were asked to recall their fondest memory spent with their grandfather.  Having ten grandchildren with eight that could talk and two babies unable, all gave vivid memories framed in the “little things”.  Our seven year old Ethan said it best, “What I love about my papa is that he comes to my games and buys me chips and pop at the Dollar General.”

granchildren at birthday party

While there is nothing wrong about being that hero in your child’s eyes, they really just want you to be that “chips and pop” kind of dad, making memories with them framed in the “little things”.

I can’t imagine any child not treasuring the time their dad spent helping them conquer the two-wheeler without those training wheels.  Dad passing on his confidence in them that the world is their stage; they can do anything; they can do this!

Father's Day Picture 2 Kyle helping Ethan Ride a Bike

Boys sure watch their daddy’s with eyes following them everywhere.  They want to be like daddy morning, noon and night.  It’s these moments that write the pages and chapters of a “father – son” best seller.

Father's Day 3 Ethan Shaving

Daughters are smitten with their daddies also.  Daddies are their only boyfriend before that man one day sweeps her off her feet.  Until then, little girls love simple time with their daddy; like time spent together on her rope swing, a swing daddy made especially for her and moments for them.

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Daughters love to tag along, having daddy all to herself.  Hand in hand she follows daddy’s footsteps, trusting his lead along the way.  These walks around the block will follow her the days of her life, never tiring a stolen moment with dad.

ayva and daddy walking

Blossoming into a princess, daddy is her prince charming when he serves his “lady in waiting” in the glamour she delights in.  A precious few minutes together, to be remembered a lifetime by daddy’s little girl.

Father's Day Picture 1 Nathan painting Brystols Nails

Memories don’t cost anything but time and your heart.  Memories are dividing up your collection of rods and walking to the pond with your grandchildren a few streets a way to see what fish are biting.

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Memories are made with your eyes beholding the child God gave to a daddy.

daddy child love

Memories that children remember will not revolve around daddy’s money or the lavish, but the moments he framed in the “little things”; their hero dressed as a “chips and pop” kind of dad.

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Daddy’s, your little girls will only be little for a short period of time.  They are Cinderella’s wanting you to teach them to dance for her ball. One day you’ll blink and realize she’s all grown up.  The days pass by so quickly.

Frame a moment with her and teach your Cinderella to dance.

Below is an impromptu moment between a papa and his granddaughter,

Their Cinderella Moment Together.

Video Courtesy of Debbie Hritz
Song:  CINDERELLA, By Steven Curtis Chapman