She spun into the kitchen, half prancing, half floating, and curtsied. She wore an old, white curtain as a trailing robe tied around her neck. A princess costume in bright blue satin peeked through the cape, and clunky plastic heals and elbow length gloves nearly completed the ensamble. A half dozen strands of beads in a rainbow of colors sparkled from her neck. In one hand she held her fairy wand in a royal, scepter-like way, and her other wrapped around her favorite baby doll, bedecked in a paisley scarf. Atop her head she wore a sparkly crown, slightly askew.
I ran for my camera. I couldn’t miss this quintessential moment of childhood. In a split second I had already imagined showing her this picture years from now, and enjoying all over again this precious instant in time, only this time with a grown up version of this amazing little princess. I snapped the picture. It was perfect.
"Can I seeeeeeee? I wanna see!" she bubbled excitedly.
Ah, the digital age, when we can see the pictures we take in a split second, while the moment is still warm. It used to be that a photo was taken on pure faith. We aimed the little black box, pushed a clacketty little button, and hoped for the best. The roll of film might then sit in the camera for weeks, or even months, till it was all full. Then, depending on how far off payday might be, or where you tossed the roll when you yanked it from the camera to pop in another, the developing would wait. And wait... (When I was eighteen my mom finally took a candy bowl full of film rolls to be developed. Who could have known there would be faded baby pictures of my sixteen year old brother on them?). Taking a picture meant waiting for a memory.
But not now. Now there is no opening an envelope weeks after the special day to discover that precious moment in time had been spoiled by a blink. No revealing, shortly after granny has moved on to the great beyond, that the youngest member in the four generation family portrait has a finger up the nose. Now, there it is, the moment in the moment. A tiny screen tells all in an instant.
I held out the camera. She wrestled my hand down into her face to get a better look.
"My crown is crooked." she stated flatly, a dejected look on her face.
"You look beautiful!" I insisted, and it was true! She was adorable, happy and perfect. Her joyous little face beamed out at me from the tiny image, her slanting crown adding all the flair of a tipped top hat on a 40's tap dancer.
"Take it over." she said simply, futsing with the crown.
I helped her straighten her crown, though a little reluctantly. There had been perfection in her imperfection. There was magic in the instant; spontaneity and adorable six-year-old joy. Yet I understood. How often do I look back on a moment, an effort, and see only the flaws.
I took the picture. She stood a little stiffly, a dim, self conscious grin on her face. After the digitally-made shutter sound, she relaxed and smiled, then dashed over to inspect and approve of her new and improved self.
"Good." she said before trotting off. Yes, I suppose it was.
I saved the one of the princess with the crooked crown.