The Queen of the Night glistened in the dark. It was late, past my bedtime. But she was so beautiful. Magnificent. People pointed and smiled, milling around her with flashlights.
“The cactus is blooming.” That was the message on my cell phone. What? Why would I care about some cactus, I’d wondered. Then I learned: Epiphyllum Oxypetalum. They bloom rarely, and only at night. And by the first light of day the flower would wilt and die.
The plant had only a few blossoms. In the dark, I photographed it up and down. I would immortalize it, post it on Facebook and Twitter, print it up BIG on premium archival paper, adhere it onto gatorboard with a polycarbonate laminate finish and polished German silver frame. This was my new way of memorializing things.
My old Omi Rosie used to tell me to take pictures in my mind if there was something beautiful or special I wanted to remember. No camera. Just in my head. So over the years I gathered “snapshots” in my head…. Like my first real kiss, on a summer night, the guy had a full set of braces that cut into my lips making them swell as we sat under stars, on a dock that rocked over a fishy-smelling black lake that lapped loudly…. And later, newly arrived at college, walking on the quad over fallen ginkgo leaves, yellow and stinking like dog-poo, my arms ached weighted down with just-bought textbooks and I told myself to remember this beginning of the adventure that was my own, not my family’s…. Later still, my newborn son’s eyes that could turn into any color…. “Snapshots” in my mind. That always worked for me. Because most of my life I hated cameras. “They keep me away from what’s going on. Why would I want to put a box between myself and what I want to remember?” I’d say. That was before my daughter died. The daughter who loved photos.
The night I visited the Queen of the Night I couldn’t sleep. I drove back, through thick fog early the next morning before sunrise, to see the plant once more. And I thought of the other beautiful, short life I’d witnessed at its end. Five years ago. On the morning I knew would be my daughter’s last day, I filled my eyes with her face, to plant a “snapshot” in my head, to always remember. And that image, indelible in my mind, is infinitely more breathtaking than this photograph I took of the Queen of the Night in her last glory, just as the sun came up.
What do you do to always remember something beautiful, important, loved? Do photographs work for you? Or do memories?