Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Did I ever mention that I hate whining?

I WAS going to post my year-end poll today, but, because of popular ball-breaking demand, I decided to fill you in on the denoument of the Christmas story today. Keep an eye out for my poll, and please vote when it's up!

And next time, suck it UP, people!


"May I speak to, Marti?"

"This is."

"Marti, my name is Steve. I'm dating your daughter Stephanie."

"Yeeeees, Steve!" she says. "How nice to talk to you! I feel like I know you!"

"Thank you! It's nice to talk to you, too! Happy holidays."

"Same to you!"

"Let me tell you why I am calling. I had this idea for a Christmas present for Stephanie."

"All right..."

"My father gave me a shoebox full of pictures of me. Baby pictures, young kid pictures, and so on. And I was wondering if you had a lot of pictures of Stephanie from when she was growing up."

"Stephanie is the older one, so yes, we took a lot of pictures of her, especially when she was little. Not so much as she got older."

"Here's my idea: I want to make a scrapbook where I put our pictures next to each other in chronological order. Her baby pictures next to mine, and so on."

"Oh, that's a lovely idea, Steve! The only thing is, a lot of these pictures are in albums or frames already, so I couldn't give them to you."

"Hmm. Do you have a computer with a scanner? And a color printer?"

"Why, yes, but the scanner never worked right. I couldn't get it installed."

"If I come up there and install your scanner for you, and buy you some photo printing paper, would you be willing to spend a few hours with me and go through the pictures?"

"Yes! Wonderful!"


Thursday, December 16.

I am extremely busy at work. But I've announced that I am not going to be in today, and I'm sticking with that. It's incredibly tempting to simply try to divert this to another day, but I need to get this taken care of as soon as I can. There is never going to be a convenient day to spend six hours driving.

I make the trip up in two and a half hours, speeding the whole way.

Marti is very gracious. When I get there, she's already got her photo albums off the shelf and lined up neatly on the dining room table, along with framed pictures.

The scanner installed easily. I just deinstalled it, rebooted, and let XP handle it from there. It took maybe ten minutes, max. Marti was grateful. "I was all ready to bring that stupid thing back!" she says. I am amazed how paralyzed some people get when their computers don't work, and how appreciative they are when I fix them.

I start out the album with baby pictures: Stephanie under a blanket, Steve asleep in his crib. I put Steph's picture in the upper left corner, mine in the lower right, and in the middle I write a caption: "The beginnings...."

I don't think about our age difference that much, but these baby pictures really drive it home for me. Mine is from 1970. The color is washed out, and there's a white border around the photo. Steph's is from 1981, and you can really see the difference. The images are sharp, the colors crisp. I feel like I'm robbing the cradle all of a sudden.

One of Marti's favorite pictures is of Stephanie talking on a play telephone. "She used to play with that phone all the time," Marti says. "She'd be walking around the house, blah, blah, blah, all day long." I scan it and print off a nice copy.

Then I dig through my pictures, and sure enough, I uncover a picture of little Steve, sitting in grandma's lap, dialing a play phone. "A-HA!" I say. Is this great or not!?

"Ohhhh, WONDERFUL!" Marti shrieks. "This is gonna be sooo cute!"

I mount the pictures in the album. In between, I write, "A play date? I'll have my people call your people!"

It's a lot harder finding pictures of us as we got older, as you might imagine. But I still manage to find some good ones. One set that sticks out in my mind is 14-year-old Steph, skinny and gawky, with a mouthful of braces, and 12-year-old Steve, fat and jolly, with a mouthful of....something (Doritos, probably). We both look kinda goofy, but we're smiling effusively. We're happy, despite our appearances.

As I come to the end of the album, I am really happy with it. It feels like I'm...telling a story. I like the idea that our lives are intertwined somehow, that we went through a lot of the same things, and that maybe I was not really as alone as I thought I was.

There's a picture of Stephanie from last year at a formal dinner, with a tight black dress and pearls. Her hair is up in a bun with one single strand hanging down in front of her right eye. I have never seen Steph that dressed up, and she is absolutely gorgeous. I scan it and print it, then stare at the picture for a long time.

"Pretty, isn't she?" Marti says.


I find a picture of me from my brother's wedding, in a black tux, microphone in hand, making a toast. I'm gesturing with my finger, and smiling my little Frank Sinatra half-smile. I like the way I look in this one.

"Look at this match!" I say. "We're both in formal wear!"

"OOOOO, you did it again, Steve! How cute! What a HANDSOME couple!"

"FORMALLY known as Steve and Steph," I write in between the pictures.

On the second-to-last page of the album, I place a picture of me jogging. It's shaky and out of focus, but you can tell it's me. And in the middle of the last page, I put the only picture I have of Steph and me, from this past Thanksgiving. We're squeezed into a recliner, her looking beseechingly at me, me looking straight-faced at the camera. It might as well be an ad for Barcardi or Marlboro.

Underneath it, I write, "Stephanie....I am glad I "ran into" you! Merry Christmas! Love, Steve"

Corny, I know. But she liked it.