"Smile!" says Erin, our old film camera held up to her eye. Henry is splayed out in the snow before her in some silly pose. As she clicks the shutter, a familiar feeling creeps up from my stomach and into my chest.
The time machine. I am back on it. Like a character from some bad science-fiction story, I am sucked into a time warp I have no control over.
In a second, the photo is developed, placed in an envelope, and transferred to an album. It is instantly yellowed with age, and I am a very old man staring at it, pondering, yet again, about how quickly it all goes by.
The first time I rode the time machine was when Henry was three-months old. I had just finished changing his diaper, and he was crying. Henry was normally a very happy baby, so this was unusual. I remember trying many things to calm him down.
I picked him up in my arms. He was so small. His tiny face pressed into my neck, as he cried uncontrollably.
In a moment, this tiny baby grew in my arms. He grew and grew until his feet touched the floor. I was no longer holding a crying baby who needed me, but a grown man who very much did not. Maybe I was just exhausted, but suddenly he wasn't the only one crying.
The time machine picks me up for a ride every six months or so. I never know when it's coming, but I recognize it right away.
I always thought it only traveled one way, until about six months ago. I found a CD of photos I had not looked at since Henry was an infant. As I trolled through the files, I found one I didn't know existed. It was a movie file, which confused me because we've never taken moving image of the kids. There must have been some sort of mistake. I clicked on it.
I was not prepared for what I saw. For 30 seconds, my little Henry--just four-hours old--cried to me as he received his first sponge bath. That cry was unmistakable. That face, so familiar. I was a mess.
Stupid time machine.
It drops me off this again this morning, back in my house with my kids still 5, 3, and 1. Jane catches my eye.
"What's wrong, Daddy?"
"Nothing, sweetie. Just took a ride on the time machine."
"Can I come?"