It was all supposed to be so simple, really. I just wanted to recreate a photo, and in the recreation of the photo to somehow also bring back a semblance of my youth. Real simple.
I had it all set up, too. I knew where the photo had been taken. Check. I knew how to get there. Check. I didn’t have the original participants (well, I was one of them, but the other was not going to be able to make the trip), but I had a solution for that. I would use my own children instead. Check.
All that was left to do was to get there, to locate the landmark utilized in the original photo, and to take a similar picture. Easy as pie. Except no one told Dutch Wonderland we would be coming. No one rolled out the red carpet. And no one explained to us that the landmark utilized in the original photo was no longer in the park itself. And, really, I should have known better.
The original photo was probably from around 1982 or 1983. I remember it pretty well, actually, considering my young age at the time. My sister was all excited about exploring other aspects of the park, but my dad (who took us that day) wanted to make sure we had some memories. Honestly, I think my mom made him promise to take a few photos of us since she couldn’t be there, and this was his one way of obliging, I guess.
I wasn’t looking at the camera because I didn’t know he was taking it right then. In fact, I think he really took more than one photo of us with that horse and his drum, but I can’t seem to locate any of the others, if they in fact ever existed. My sister was also not looking at the camera, so intent was she in going elsewhere.
But somehow we did stand still long enough for him to snap the picture, and it was developed later. It is iconic to me because it was one of the few times our dad took us somewhere, and it was just the three of us that day. It is iconic to me because it captures a moment that was rare in my life, and I guess by recreating it I was hoping to hang on to it just a little bit more.
It’s hard to hang on to memories from so far back, from when I was so young, and this one stuck. I wanted to have my children pose similarly at the sides of that drum, in front of that beautiful horse, just like I did when I was their age. It seemed like the perfect time, and the perfect confluence of events. But it wasn’t.
And when I had asked the umpteenth park worker today where the drum and the horse were, and they had given me the same blank look, I began to realize more and more that history would have to remain history, that there was no perfect bookend to that experience, to that moment in time between my sister, my dad, and myself.
It would be immortalized in that moment, in that one photo, forever. And it made me sad. It made me frustrated that I was so helpless in what happened, just like I was helpless in my parents’ divorce. I couldn’t make that horse and his drum appear from thin air. I couldn’t recreate something I had dreamed of for years.
It wasn’t to be, and as the full weight of that realization crashed down around me I couldn’t bear its weight. But maybe that’s the way it always should have been. Perhaps the horse and his drum were never supposed to be around when I came back, because moments are moments due to their singularity. Perhaps that photo was always supposed to be the only one, and those memories were meant to just belong to the three of us for all time.
I miss that horse and his drum, but I will always have them so long as I continue to embrace the memory of the rarity that was the trip in the first place. And today… today we created new memories, with no horse or drum in sight.