A Picture and a Story

Couple Embracing

On a whim I decided to try out a weekly writing challenge. This is my story based on the picture above.

Dear Melissa,

Mom and I were cleaning out your old dresser and we stumbled across this. You know that song by  The Pretenders that starts out with the words:

I saw a picture of you, whoa oh oh oh oh oh

When I came across this picture of you I turned it over and saw your handwriting in loopy scrawls, still somewhat juvenile in form, which wasn’t surprising as you were only seventeen. Class trip to Lisbon June 1998. 

I can still remember the tram ride that day; hot and stuffy. That was a bit unexpected, given it was nearly summer. The passengers were a mix of locals and tourists, mostly from our school. I’m wondering if you even noticed anyone else on the tram that day. You had wedged yourself into a seat and he  had his  arm around your waist. Your forehead nuzzled against his as blond strands of hair fell across your cheek. I  had to look away because you were my daughter. I stared at the others in nearby seats. It was not hard to pick out the  American tourists. They stood out like they always did in foreign places with their casual shorts, backpacks, gym shoes and cameras. I laughed to myself at how much I blended in with the locals.

It was the first tram we had taken since we arrived in Lisbon five days before. Senor Brito  insisted we visit Rossio Square and see the ruins of an old convent that suffered damage in  some earthquake years ago. I tried hard to concentrate on his words, the details of the tragic event, but instead concentrated on the old buildings passing by, the walls filled with graffiti.  I wasn’t comfortable seeing you kissed in public. I wondered if what you had with him was serious. I heard rumors he was going away to college in September, but not to Ball State like you.

As we neared the end of the tram line at the top of a hill, I saw you had turned away from him slightly. When the tram stopped, you hurried to the front with him close behind. He reached for your hand and you let him take it, intertwining your fingers in his. I wanted to grab your arm as you went past, but my parental instinct told me to let you be, enjoy this time with yo.  I exited with the others and walked further up the tiled stairs to resume my obligations as  chaperon and unofficial trip photographer.

As others milled around waiting for the entire group to  disembark, I saw him approach you. At first you turned away from him and crossed your arms in front of your chest, just like you used to as a little girl when you did not get your way. Then he pulled a small, green  wrapped package from inside the pocket of his cargo shorts. You opened the tape and parted the tissue paper on the inside, a slow smile spreading across your mouth. You held out a delicate necklace and let him fasten it around your neck.  I kept my eyes behind the lens and watched the two of you,  an excuse to see what you saw in him. When you flung your arms around him, I snapped this photo.

I always think of the words later in the song:

Those were the happiest days of my your life

As you go through this difficult time in your life, remember the good times.



I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.