One of my favorite family photographs was taken in April of 1991 during our annual "Dad's birthday outing" to the little gazebo in Garrison, NY.
Every spring, either on or as close to April 27th as possible, we would wake up early, make up thermoses of hot chocolate and coffee, pick up a dozen doughnuts and drive up the river to Garrison for a birthday breakfast. Dad would open his presents (always a bag of sour cherry balls, probably socks and bad kid drawings that would later find their way to the walls of his Barnard office, once a lima bean plant sprouted in my second-grade classroom in a sandwich bag filled with damp paper towels -- because oh how Dad hated lima beans, and oh how clever a present this seemed to my eight-year-old self), baseballs would be tossed, the river would almost inevitably be fallen in to while climbing over rocks, and way too much sugar would be consumed.
But this picture was taken in 1991 and I was in high school and adolescently cantankerous about having to spend an entire morning with my parents and my little brother. There we are, perched on the steps of the gazebo, caught in the late morning light: Nathan in all his pre-teen gawkiness cradling Dad's old baseball glove in his arms, Mom leaning over to arrange something, me in a jean jacket and bad perm with fingers curled around a mug of hot chocolate, and Dad looking immensely satisfied -- handsome and grinning and turning such a youthful 45, surrounded by people he adored.
And the thing is, I don't think I was really all that cranky about being there -- I think I was happy and playing a miserable angry teenage role, though maybe this is wishful thinking.
I've been trying to imagine what he would be like today, at the ripe old age of 66 and a new grandfather, and am wondering whether he knew (I'm guessing he probably did) that I didn't actually mind being there, contentedly rotting my teeth on jelly-filled doughnuts and his beloved sour cherry balls.