THE FLOWERS OF LIFE.
A childless couple visited me recently. We had an enjoyable day, walking around, eating my home-made pizza, talking. It was a perfect Indian summer day which sometimes happens in September. They also looked at my home again before leaving, and the woman remarked, “Your home is like a museum dedicated to your children”. I kept silent; it is not the first time I get this reaction from people who do not have kids of their own. Yet what I see around me is the same thing I find in any other family home: photos of children and grandchildren seem to occupy every available surface, on the walls and shelves, in every room, even more so when the kids are grown and flown. Naturally it is not a museum, because it is not a static exhibition. It has always been like that, with the very first pictures showing our children as babies, then toddlers, then teenagers and adults. Here is a poster, an enlarged photo I took in New York; it shows our kids with the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center as background. I wonder how many homes have the same sort of picture, only with different kids’ faces. A summer picnic, winter skiing, Disney World, graduation pictures, all of them show a slice of family history which keeps growing, going through Time and Space.
I always had a mental image of children as Time Machines. Here they are with my parents, the little kids laughing and my parents quite vigorous. And there they are almost grown-ups, settled around my bed-ridden silver-haired old mother, smiling at her, holding her hands. Every photo shows a lot of love and fun and excitement and generally all the good things in life. There is continuity in them. My visitors studied an old photo of my great-grandparents, and commented on the resemblance my great-grandmother had to my daughter. I often look at the picture and think how lucky we are to even have it, because indeed one of my kids is a recessive gene: she does not resemble any of us but she takes after her female ancestor.
I have been an amateur photographer and a kind of the family chronicler since my very early years when I received a camera for my tenth birthday. Truth be told, when I choose a nice photo out of the enormous number I regularly take, print it out and place among my “gallery”, I never see it as an exhibition. It is what I do, what gives me pleasure and joy. For many years I have been creating a new calendar with a picture of my kids as the centerpiece. When I need to check or calculate a date, I raise my eyes to it and automatically see not only the months but also those most beautiful faces on this planet Earth, for me. At first they were faces of young babies, now they are young adults. I guess they give me inspiration, support and encouragement in my work on a daily basis.
There is nothing bad about not having children. Some couples decide not to have them, others simply cannot have them. I never ask, because I know how painful such questions can be. And I respect their decisions, their way of life. If I notice that they do not understand what gives purpose and joy to us, I believe it is all right. After all, not all the parents center their lives on their children. In the same way that we listen to our own kids and occasionally say nothing to their observations and remonstrations, we do not react to what the people who live differently say and do. This is not an obstacle to good relations and communication. As parents, we know how to be understanding and tolerant. And it is always good to hear another point of view. Next time I have similar visitors, I may think more about what they may see, and either change my “exhibition” a bit or think up some neutral comments. For instance when I mentioned that I was an inveterate photographer, my guest said, “Aha, so that is why you have so many photos everywhere!”
For me, children are indeed the flowers of life. I do not need to explain it to anybody who does not feel it.