I stretch my long limbs as high as they can go on my tippy toes to grab the old shoebox I hadn’t looked through in years. It is dusty and grey, just looking at it could make one filled with despair. I try to wipe all of the dust off, but it has been there for too long and doesn’t want to budge very far. Some of the dust particles cling to my hand while the others refuse to leave their comfort spot on top of the box. I know looking inside will almost break my heart all over again, but lately I have been feeling so empty and hallow that I think it will be for the best. It will remind me of what I had and what was lost; it will remind me of what I have with me today. Anna lays beside me, her eyes so sleepy, but I know it is time for her to see these pictures too. Once I place the box down in front of us, her eyes widen; she is suddenly awake.
I open the shoe box, glad to see that none of the dust made its way inside. The pictures are still in almost perfect condition, just like everything used to be. The one on top doesn’t include me, but it is you, as a young boy, dressed as a cowboy. I didn’t know you back then, but I remember you telling me the story of your favorite Halloween. You were one of those navy kids, moving all around the country. Your best friend was your mother while your father always kept himself busy, but that Halloween he surprised you, waiting outside of your classroom to take you home and have a buffet of candy. Chocolates, gummies, and all of the lollipops in the world. Your mom had bought you the cowboy costume while you were at school because you had been too stubborn to go shopping with her before. But with your father at your side, you were excited to dress up, even if just for home. You three stayed home that night, with the porch light off so no one would come asking for candy, and watched scary movies that you were never allowed to watch before. I hold the picture, smiling to myself. That smiles of yours had never changed, even though your father would turn out to be a man you hated the most.
I hand Anna the picture and pick up the next one, our very first photobooth picture. I wonder if you’d remember that picture, or even that whole night. Our friends had dragged us with them for a blind date and I remember the feeling of all the blood rushing to my face when I first laid eyes on you. You were the most handsome being I had ever seen and though I am usually an outgoing gal, I was suddenly speechless, cowering behind my friend, wondering if you fancied me too. After dinner I started to loosen up; it was easy too with your warm personality. Many handsome men are so into themselves, but you… you didn’t seem to know how wonderful you were. You were humorous, charming, and witty. I could have talked to you for hours. Our friends both ran away to do who knows what, but you stayed with me as we walked through the various stores around us. We were both paying more attention to each other than what was around us, but once you saw that old photobooth, your eyes lit up.
“How about a picture to remember this night by?” you said, with the cutest, sly smile on your face. I nodded and we both hopped right in. The photobooth was cramped, but I felt a rush of heat as I sat so close to you. We took silly photos and continued to make silly faces at one another while we waited for the pictures to develop. I am not sure if I have ever laughed as much as I did that night. Though that night came to an end, it was only the first of many. Anna looks at the photobooth picture so intently and she asks if she can keep it.
Looking through the next batch of photographs brought waves of joy and sadness. Everyone had told us that we were a fun couple and I never understood why, but looking at this pictures, I suddenly realized they were right. Pictures from when we went skydiving, visited Alcatraz, petted those dolphins, hiked in Yosemite, met Robin Williams randomly walking through the city, and one of my favorites, the one of us the night you proposed. We were helping a couple of friends paint their new homes when you got the clever idea to splatter it on me. I was covered from head to toe and soon you were, along with our buddies. It was just another day in our amazing life, wasn’t it? I was surprised when you pulled that ring out of your pocket, but I wouldn’t have wanted it another way. You could have easily been cliche and taken me out to dinner, but instead you chose to wait for a moment like that one. It was perfect in its own way… in our own way.
As I made my way through the box, I felt a sorrow building up in my heart knowing we were almost at the bottom. Anna never got to meet you, so she thought every picture was so precious. I could’ve spent every day of my life with you and still thought they were precious. Finally, I picked up the one that was at the bottom of the box. The picture that made me miss you more than I ever thought I could miss anyone; it was our last picture together. We were with your family in Tahoe and I had been sniffly and looked like rudolf with my red nose, but they insisted that we take a photo together next to the Christmas tree. Who knew that just an ordinary, cliche picture would be the most meaningful one. I look at the picture, more closely. Though I had been sick as could be, we were both smiling; still so happy to be with one another, just as we planned to stay for the rest of our lives. Your mother had you wearing one of those ugly Christmas sweaters and I was wearing just an ordinary one, one which showed the bump growing on my belly.
You were so excited when we found out we were going to be expecting a baby. Though we hadn’t even set the date for our wedding, we knew that it was meant to be, just as everything between us seemed to be. I tried not to let tears fall from my eyes as I looked at this last photo and handed it to Anna. I watched her eyes as she took in every detail from the photo. That picture was taken one month before the crash; one month before the end of everything I thought I knew, one month before everything would change. That day, without knowing of the tragedy I would face when I got back home, I went to the doctors to find out we were having a girl. Our baby girl. My heart was filled with joy as I was on my way home to tell you the news, but it was broken instantly when I saw the police man waiting outside of our home.
It seemed like so long ago, these past five years have somehow been the most miserable with out you, but wonderful with Anna. She’s grown up so beautifully, you would’ve fell in love with her at first sight, just like I did. Anna puts the last picture down and wraps her little arms around me. Everytime I saw her smile, I see yours. I know everyone says that the birth of a child is a miracle, but I had never believed it more in my life than I did now. I can tell she loves you, though she never got to meet you. I know that wherever you are, you are smiling, even if it is your classic goofy smile.