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Monday, February 19, 2007

The Trip: Snapshots

We were standing around in our grandparents' basement when our father called us all into the study to see something. He'd found some trays of slides he'd taken a long time ago. They were mostly photos of him with all his old friends on trips to Israel. He smiled like he'd just discovered a buried treasure. We all sat around the room -me, Benjy, Miriam, Dena and our mother- and looked at the pictures (in which he looked strikingly like Benjy) as he gave an explanation of each one.


I was sitting by myself at a table near the entrance of the Hampton Inn, happily eating breakfast. And what a breakfast it was! From the large selection of food on the tables, I'd taken a tiny container of Philadelphia cream cheese to put on a bagel I'd toasted, and a cup of tea, and a packet of Quaker instant oatmeal (Maple and Brown Sugar flavor). Normally I don't have breakfast. But why should I turn down such a feast? Soon I would catch up with my family, less concerned with enjoying themselves than with rushing to get out and on the road as quickly as possible. But for the moment, I ate my bagel and my oatmeal and drank my tea, and savored every bit of it with a smile.


Benjy was showing us the Boston University building where he has classes. We sat on the floor, while he stood above us, leaning on the wall casually with a superior grin on his face. He was apparently enjoying that here he owned the place relative to us, though he wanted to be seen only as mildly bored. Not literal ownership, of course- just a sense that he knew this place like the back of his hand while we were only visitors. Miriam and Dena sat by him, while I frog-sat farther back by a wall, just a little bit further into the hallway. And I thought to myself, what a wonderful photo this would make, with me in the bottom left of the frame and Benjy around the top middle. What a perfect angle. And once again I wished I had a camera. But I didn't have one, and the moment passed.


"You know what you need on your motorcycle?", I said to Benjy as we walked, "More little doohickeys.". It didn't seem right to me that a guy like Benjy, who likes to pay attention to twenty little details at once, would own such a simple vehicle as opposed to, say, an airplane. "What would these 'doohickeys' do?", he said. "How should I know? I don't have the mind for this sort of thing, you do. You should have so many little digital doohickeys that there's barely room for your hands." And as we went on down the street, he was probably wishing he could be having a conversation with someone else.


We'd been sitting in the car for hours. My father was driving through unremarkable roads. My mother was talking to him about something or other; I couldn't really tell what they were saying from the back. Dena was sitting by the window, doing nothing in particular. Miriam was listening to music on her little player. Benjy was working on his laptop, connected to the internet at almost all times. I was in the back, on his other laptop, reading comics I'd brought with me on a CD. We all kept waiting.


We were pulled over on the sidewalk with our grandparents (on my mother's side) and their car. My father was by the bottom of the car, helping out in some way. My grandfather was standing by him very straight, surveying the flat tire resentfully. My mother and her mother were arguing. Benjy stood on the left, talking on his cell phone to someone. Miriam and Dena stood around our mother looking serious, to fit in with the tone around them. I sat in the back out of the scene, with my little frog-sit, wishing I had a camera to take this most wonderful of family portraits. But I had no camera, and to ask a family member for a camera would (even assuming they broke out of the scene enough to grant my request) move them from their perfect positions. For that matter, I wasn't fond of leaving my perfect position in the picture either. And how could a camera capture that entire scene with me in it, anyway? Soon they'd work out the problem, and my grandmother would demand a traditional and wholly artificial family portrait- the kind which is all most people would think of. But for the moment, I looked at the pretty picture glad to be there in the first place.


It was late, and all four of us kids were downstairs playing. Our grandparents' basement has a huge room with a pool table and a Nintendo 64 and a piano and two arcadey game machines which don't work and lots of closets with weird stuff in them. It's a cool room. We had a Ping Pong table out, so two of us were playing on that. And the other two were playing pool. And we went back and forth between the two games, and we'd watch each other's games. I'd never seen our family before as anything but an odd assortment of mismatched parts, but in this multiplayer environment it all just clicked. I wished we could stay in that room. I'd wanted to find an environment like that for so long. And just a few days later I'd buy the multiplayer game Pac-Man Vs. to try to recapture that, to some insignificant degree, at home. I didn't realize back in that basement that any such attempt would prove futile, that when this moment passed, it would pass for good. But then, I didn't know I'd ever get to have a moment like that, and yet here it was. Tomorrow we'd continue the trip down a long list of places to go to. But for the moment.. I was glad to be there.




Here ends the 12-part saga of The Trip.

Sounds like you could use a HD satellite to follow you around on your family trips…
I enjoyed your captured moments, with or without a camera; I think it's really almost the same if you do it properly.


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