Editor's Note: For the first time in the history of the San Mateo County Fair, a 300-page anthology has been published that includes more than 100 stories, poems and essays from writers who submitted award-winning work for the fair's literary contest. The idea was the brainchild of Bardi Rosman Koodrin, a San Bruno resident who runs the fair's literary contest, and the anthology, titled "Carry the Light," features work from many Peninsula writers.
The following story won "Best of Show" for the essay category at the San Mateo County Fair literary contest.
From p. 239, "Capturing Memories"
“Not again, Dad,” I whined as my father once again waved us into a different pose for our annual Easter photo. I mustered my face into a growl of complaint until my father got tired of waiting for that perfect smile and I could hear the click of the camera lens. Only then did I smile, looking through the glare on the sidewalk caused by the warm sun to find my friends waiting impatiently for me with their ball gloves in hand. My father clicked the lens again, without a warning, and caught me with the smile I had buried deep within my heart just a moment ago. He shot a look at me with that “Got you there, bucko!” smirk that I tried to avoid seeing that day.
Within minutes I had my nice shirt off my back, tee-shirt thrown over my head and gym shoes draped over my shoulder. I bee-lined for my buddies waiting on the side of my neighbor Jimmy’s house, the thoughts of the annual photo shoot long discarded on my house’s front lawn. I never gave a second thought to the time and effort my father spent sorting through the photos to pick out the best one for the Christmas card photo and the ones which best represented the day in his head. He would spend hours each month sorting through the envelopes of photos he had developed, sorting them into piles of keep, throw, and special. I would look at him as I laid a kiss on his cheek as I went up to bed and wonder why he needed the pictures. To me, these were everyday things that weren’t that special. One here would depict me helping my mom put the dishes away, one there would show my brother and I on the beach picking up seashells, another with me sporting my new backpack on the first day of school.
Recently my grandmother died and it put everything in perspective for me. I sat at the reception as photo after photo was shown in a looping slideshow of my grandmother’s life. There she was holding her first baby with a grin that completed her exhausted, proud and hopeful expression. Next came her wedding photo where she was stepping into a decorated car with a crowd of friends throwing rice over their heads. There were pictures of her working as a nurse in the hospital and snapshots of her on the couch at a party she attended with her mouth open wide in laughter, head thrown back and eyes closed. It made you want to eavesdrop on the conversation because her laughter was so infectious. On and on the pictures continued, catching people’s eyes every now and then, causing them to smile. These memories captured in the photos brought people back to the good times, the reasons why they had loved my grandmother so much, the reasons why they were here honoring her memory at her funeral. The final chapter of the video showed my grandmother with her grandchildren, cuddling them, talking to them eye-to-eye as if they were the only people in the world. There was one of me, hand-in-hand with her, walking down the street. Oh how the picture brought me back to that day, when the thought of losing her was so far from my mind. All I knew was the love she gave me and that I felt safe and happy around her.
Looking around the room I realized something that made me blink my eyes. The pictures were not capturing the moments so that we would remember them, they were capturing the feelings to bring us closer to the ones we love. With each picture, waves of emotion washed over me – happiness, anticipation, hope, love. I didn’t need the pictures to remind me, but there, captured on the flashing pictures across the screen was the most important message of all. My grandmother made a difference in our lives. She was special. She will be missed, not because of the things we did, but because of the emotions she made us experience.
The next time my dad makes me pose for the annual Easter picture, I won’t think about what I’ll do when it is over. I’ll think about what the picture represents. What did this year mean to me? What will I think about as I look at it twenty years from now? I know it will represent my hopes and dreams, the fears I have triumphed over in the last year, the friends I have made and lost, and the bonds of love that I have for my family. The next time I hear “Smile for the camera!” I’ll look at my dad with the love and respect I have for him and treat him with a big smile.
Excerpted from "Carry the Light" with the permission of Sand Hill Review Press, the publisher. The book is available for purchase for $12 on Amazon.com.
Sean Traynor will be a senior at Carlmont High School this coming fall. He won numerous awards at this year's county fair including "Best of Show" for his essay "Capturing Memories" and the Notre Dame de Namur $20,000 Creative Writing Scholarship for his essay, "Rock Solid." He has published 186 articles and art in various publications. Sean not only has a passion for writing, but he also is an avid performer. In his spare time he volunteers to increase literacy and writing skills of children worldwide and has won numerous awards such as the Presidential Service Award (Gold level), Prudential Spirit of the Community Award, Kohls Cares Award and Discus All Around Student Award.