Imagine A Photograph
In memory of my late father Jack O’Malley
By Taylor O’Malley
I wish that I had a framed photograph to sit and ponder over from my favorite day that I ever had. I wish that my memories were tangible, that I would be able to show my husband a moment in time captured so long ago. A time before we met and married, a time before my father passed away and even a time before my childhood home sold. The photograph would capture a time when childhood innocence prevailed and life’s cruelty was still a lesson to be learned.
The photograph I imagine would grasp an image from a Fourth of July evening taking place nearly two decades earlier at my childhood home in Bridgehampton. I would have just turned eleven years old and would be caught in time sitting on the top rail of a three planked, white wooden fence that separated my backyard from our unplanted farm field that would become a horse farm the following year. My skinny legs would be dangled from the sturdy fence, tanned and mosquito bitten. My jean cut offs would be rolled into thick cuffs, and my white tee shirt would be stained from the coffee ice cream that I had stirred until it became a soupy mess and slipped right off the edge of my spoon. My blonde hair would be so bleached by the summer sun it would appear white and would fall along my back in a loose braid. The photograph would have portrayed how closely my hair matched the thick fur coat of my two golden retrievers waiting patiently under my bare feet.
The camera’s flash would have captured my face so bright, young and innocent. My eyes would have sparkled with excitement as I watched my father set off fireworks from the middle of the fifteen acre field with my older brother Ryan by his side. The other men from my parent’s party stood near, but clearly behind my father with cold beers in their hands, and nervous expressions on their faces as they glanced at the massive, unattended homes lining the cul-de-sac next to the field. I chuckled at the nervous men, my father was never afraid of anything. If he had been worried about lighting one of our neighbor’s homes on fire, it sure didn’t show.
I had tilted my head back and looked up to the night sky. Gripping the rail a little tighter underneath my small hands, careful not to fall backwards. I could still picture my mother and her friends sitting along a teal printed blanket atop the grassy lawn. They sat with a bottle of white wine and made approving sounds of “oohhs” and “aaahs” as the blackened night sky danced with fiery reds, electric blues and my favorite golden whites. The shining stars would be given a break for a half an hour or so, until my father used up the last of the fireworks.
The photograph would have captured a warm, July night that passed by with the blink of an eye. A night that seemed special then only because of the holiday, but that would become a night that I looked back upon often, as I grew older and my life went through changes. I asked my mother about that night recently and I was happy to find that she too remembers that sensationally ordinary night. Unfortunately, I cannot travel back in time to take a photograph of that perfect evening, but I will keep the memory alive in my mind where I can still feel the humid summer air and smell the smoke lingering at a moment’s notice.