One of my favorite photos of Wife and me is also one of the first ones of us together. In the photo, we’re sitting on a bank of snow after an hour of skating on the lake, drinking hot chocolate – and looking very happy.I’m not too proud to admit that whenever I’m shown a photo of us, or the family, I’m quick to make sure I look presentable but not when I see that photo. I know I look good enough, even though I’m wearing Dad’s old hat, one that was never really cool but became hip with a couple of decades packed away in a box in a basement.
What catches my eye is how you can so easily tell we’re in love. We’re both looking into the camera, with big smiles on our faces. We’re leaning towards each other, my hand on Wife’s knee, hers behind me. She’s holding a cup of hot chocolate in her hand, smiling, but I can tell she’s also getting ready to take out the cookies and sandwiches, and possibly waiting for the moment when she can take off her skates.
I have a huge smile on my face, not only because I’m skating on a lake for the first time, having a childhood dream come true – “what if all the streets froze and you could skate to school” – but because I’m skating with a very special lady.
I had just felt the wind on my face, and seen the admiration in Wife’s eyes when she watched me twist and turn on the track that they had plowed on the ice.
We had only met a couple of months earlier. We’d been at a team building conference with work, and one morning in Bologna, after a long night of partying, I showed up at the breakfast, not quite ready for another day of team building exercises. But I sat down next to this young lady I had chatted with the night before, and told her that I’d be her partner in the next exercise.
“Because we make a great team,” I told her.
What you can’t see in the photo is how I took my showing off to the next level. I had a hockey stick with me, and with the wind making it hard for us to get back, I offered to help Wife. She held on to the hockey stick, and I started to pull. First, I skated slowly, but managed to pick up speed with every stride until 40 meters later we were flying, flying … and when my blade hit a hole in the ice, we really flew – and fell. And we laughed, our faces covered in snow, my hip hat a few meters behind me.
We limped back and walked back to her Grandma’s place because back then, Grandma was her roommate, her landlord, a confidant, and a mentor.
Sitting there, on the bank of snow, we know we had made it past the Y2K “scare”, we’re wondering whether Ross and Rachel will ever get back together again, and we’re excited about new millennium. A little excited. Mostly, we’re excited to be sitting there, together, right then.
Almost three years after the shot, Son was born. Then three years after that, three months before Daughter was born, I asked her to marry me, and she said yes.
The couple in the photo has no idea of any of that happening. Or that they’d get married in Las Vegas. They don’t know they’ll move to Finland, they have no idea they’ll move back to Sweden. Who knew they’d move to Sollentuna, where Grandma lived, where her parents lived, and where the lake is. Soon after the photo was taken by a stranger on the lake, they decide to go on a road trip across America, but never in their wildest dreams can they see doing the same road trip sixteen years later, with their children.
No, the couple in the photo simply looks good and happy, and that’s why I like it. Because that’s how I see us.
We’ve been back to the lake, all four of us. It’s only four kilometers from our house and a couple of winters ago, I used to go skating there during the day. Without hot chocolate, cookies, or sandwiches. Just by myself.
It was fun, but it just wasn’t the same without her.
Because nothing is.