Last week I was walking to the post office at lunch when a man rushed over to me and asked if I would mind taking a picture for him. Unlike that other university in Virginia, there aren’t too many (read: any) famous rotundas designed by former presidents on our campus, so this was a slightly unusual request. I was immediately curious.
The picture that he wanted was of him and his parents standing in front of a sculpture on the lawn of one of the galleries on campus (see above). His father proudly explained that he had graduated from the university in the late 1960s and had been one of a small group of students who had helped install the piece. I took several photos for them and spent a few minutes listening to his parents memories of the campus. I learned that they lived in Florida and were on the way to Philadelphia to visit their grandchildren. The father had asked his son to stop, so he could show him the sculpture, which he had never seen.
I still smile thinking about this five-minute interlude to my afternoon. The father full of pride. His wife clearly soaking in some lovely nostalgia, as she grabbed his hand and squeezed it in hers. The son excited for this glimpse into his parents’ life before he was a part of it, thrilled to have captured the moment.
I imagined that maybe the son’s plan was to grab a quick bite just off the interstate and keep pushing through. That this detour into the city for art viewing and lunch at one of his dad’s old favorite restaurants wasn’t on the itinerary. In my made-up story, I found myself feeling so grateful that he chose to stop.
It’s so easy to be busy. To have agendas and stick to them. To worry about time schedules and expectations. And yet, years later, when we find that photo of our parents holding hands in front of an artistic stack of round red brick on a sunny afternoon we’ll be grateful we disregarded our original plans. That we made the space in our crowded lives for a moment that could never be recreated.