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Letters to Gabriel (four)

You know those people? People who talk about their kids all of the time?

They go on about some milestone their son or daughter has overcome or is working toward. Sitting up. Smiling. Crawling. Talking. Walking. Algebra.

You know. Those people.

When they ask, “Wanna see a photo of my kid?” they’re not really asking but rather telling you to put on a smile and open your eyes wide.

Today I can say, “count me among them.”

I’m on the last leg of back-to-back work trips. LA last week. NYC this week. I’m tasked with asking questions and listening. Interviewing interesting people about their interesting accomplishments. Authors. Actors. Musicians. Chefs. Screenwriters. Painters. Directors. All very interesting.

I begin these interviews diligently carrying out this asking and listening. But after formal conversation that lasts the length of a sitcom episode, the scripted lines we’ve both subconsciously prepared somehow melt away to reveal two humans. With passions, histories, stories, families that can’t be described in sound bites. So we get real.

This has always been my favorite part of any interview. That moment it becomes a conversation between new friends, or at least friendly acquaintances. They forget I’m recording, and their comments veer toward the things and people that make their life worth living.

The interviewer gets as much material as she can out of these scarce moments. And just as it begins to slip away, she asks one more question.

“Wanna see a photo of my kid?”

I’m no longer holding my pen or notebook to write down their answer. I don’t listen for their answer. I flip through my latest gallery of images. I can’t help myself from leaning in along with them to take in the exhibit.

You with carrots smeared from the bottom of your chubby toes to the top of your curly hair. You gumming your dad’s Warriors hat. You splashing (and pooping) in your grandparents’ sink. You rocking back and forth to AC/DC. You behind the wheel of your dad's new (parked) car. You surrendering to kisses from your cousin. You rolling your hand-me-down race car along the kitchen floor. You grabbing my nose as we sway together in a hammock. You turning the cardboard pages of a book. You eating a book.

And one day? Algebra.

[Photos by Haley Bouffard and Aaron Nadler.]

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