It was 1980 something... the four little munchkins you see are 3 of my cousins and me. I'm the blonde one on the right, with the giant bear and the dirty white socks. We were thick as thieves. My cousin Rhonda, (second in from the left, the giant of the group) was like a big sister to me at that age. We lived across the street from each other from as early as I can remember. We shared toys, we shared secrets, we even shared clothes (I always got her hand me downs). One time, she even shared the chicken pox with me, though managed to avoid them herself... yeah, that was one she could have kept to herself. The little dark haired girl on the end, that is my cousin Shelly, and the tiny little boy next to me, her brother Kevin. They lived about an hour away, but visited quite often. I was born between them, Shelly being about a year older than me, and Kevin being almost a year younger. Sleepovers with Shelly meant late night gigglefests, with parents threatening to separate us if we didn't quiet down. And Kevin, being the only boy in the crew, was of course often teased mercilessly, but still a part of all the important playtimes. We all spent birthdays and holidays together. We played nice and we played not so nice, sometimes being cranky and taking it out on each other.
Through the modern marvels of Facebook, our family has been sharing lots of old photos, and we've had so much fun, laughing and teasing each other about old hairstyles and fashion sense as well as that lack of self conciousness that little kids seem to have when letting their parents take pictures of them doing silly things.
This picture really is a snapshot of a moment in time, back when we were young and idealistic. Back before life had reared it's head and exposed us to some of the less pleasant aspects. In that moment, our biggest concern was most likely if we would be able to get back out to play some more before our parents started hosing us down and getting us ready for bed. This was before three of us would learn the word divorce. Before one of us would welcome the birth of a second child while still reeling from the loss of a mother. Before one, at the tender age of eight would be able to establish the timeline of "before my dad died" and "after my dad died." These children aren't yet preparing to say goodbye to a grandma, the matriach that held their large family together. The innocence on their faces doesn't reveal that one will hear the word "cancer" not once, but twice as a young adult. That one will make some bad choices and go through some difficult teenage years. They will experience their share of loss, of illnesses (both their and loved ones), trials and tribulations, though it won't all be bad. They will also experience great joys, in marriages, and births; in graduations and promotions. In the time between then and now they will have felt both joy and sorrow, happiness and fear.
So, if I could go blink my eyes, and go back to that moment. Would I step out of the shadows and warn these children of what lies ahead? Would I advise them of what to watch out for and who to hug one more time? No, I think that if I could transport myself back there, I would just want to stay there in the shadows and soak in the pure, unadultered bliss that is the naiveity of that moment. I sit here now, knowing that they each come through it all, a bit wiser, a bit stronger. Each event has shaped those little faces into the adults that we are today; and we are the better for them. So I look into each of those smiling faces and revel in the innocent happiness of their gaze, and I am reminded that we were blessed with that moment, when all was right in the world.