Kevin Fanning

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The Pictures of Our Children

By Kevin Fanning

We took so many pictures of our children when they were babies. Asleep or awake, trying to crawl or trying to eat, the camera was always out. Are they even going to recognize our faces, we wondered, or will they just think of us as the person always pointing the thing at them? As the babies grew older we reviewed the pictures we’d taken and saw that they were all close-ups. Look at the paper-thin fingernails we tore with our teeth. Look at the chubby cloud arm, sprawled carelessly across the bed. Look at the scarlet mouth framing one angry tooth. Look at the wisps of hair floating across the downy landscape of their foreheads. We only ever had parts of them.

As our children grew older and they began to develop their independence it was easier to take pictures of them. They were always running away from us. We photographed them off doing things in the world, but there was always something more interesting in the frame. Look at the puddle that they insisted on jumping into. Look at the trees that they hid behind until we thought we had lost them. Look at the kite that wanted to pull them up into the sky. As we shared the pictures and talked about them, most of the time we weren’t even talking about the children. What is that child holding in its hand? Who let them stand so close to the road? Who is that man there in the background? How safe is that thing they are climbing on? What are the children staring at, off in the distance, past the edge of the picture?

After our children had grown up and moved out on their own, we went to visit them in the cities where they lived. Our children refused to stand in front of the camera, so we took pictures of the lives around them. This is the city where our children live. This is the apartment that they call their home. This is the unmade bed where they sleep, see how the sunlight streams through the curtains we helped them pick out. This is the bodega where they buy their groceries, this is the subway station that takes them to their jobs. This is the restaurant where they took us out to dinner, this is the food we ate. This is how their neighborhood looked at night as we walked back to their apartment. Look at the city, look at the sky, look at all the lights, too numerous to count, shining brightness in every direction. That’s our children.

Kevin Fanning is the author of Magical Neon Sexuality. He can be found online at @kfan.