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Wednesday, 24 February 2016 17:19

An oddly familiar photo brings back memories

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op coxI hate having my picture taken. The simple truth is that I have found clever ways to avoid it for most of my life. But there is one picture of me I have always liked. In it, I am standing near the road between my old apartment and the park across the street in my hometown of Sparta, North Carolina. In the crook of my right arm, I am holding my nephew, Adam, who is 3-years-old. I am wearing my favorite shirt, a gray R.E.M. T shirt, and it is a beautiful day. Adam is squinting, and I am smiling broadly, as if to say, “This is MY nephew!”

My sister, Lisa, was the first of us to have children, and Adam was her firstborn. I could not wait to do stuff with him. As soon as he was old enough, I took him to see professional wrestling matches, the Harlem Globetrotters, even the Charlotte Hornets when they used to hold their preseason training camp in Boone, back in the days when I was a sportswriter for the Watauga Democrat. Adam was pretty dazzled to be able to get that close to the players, even if it was just practice. I was a bit dazzled myself, but that didn’t last long.

One day after practice, I tried to get Rex Chapman, the Hornets hotshot shooting guard, to give him an autograph, but Chapman snubbed us, leaving Adam standing there at the door to the locker room holding his unsigned Hornets basketball. I was so peeved that I wrote a nasty column the very next day about pampered athletes. I also placed a private hex on Chapman, which in turn caused him to have a terrible season. A few years later, he was arrested for shoplifting. Draw your own conclusions.

Since I took Adam to watch them practice, the Hornets moved to New Orleans, changed their name to the Pelicans, and now the Charlotte Hornets are back again. I moved to Waynesville, and Adam grew up, joined the service, spent some time in Iraq, and then came back and met the love of his life. They got married, moved to Winston-Salem, and just a few weeks ago gave birth to a son, whose bedroom is all decked out in Carolina Panther colors and memorabilia. I feel like one of those witnesses that gets interviewed on television: “It all happened so fast.”

A couple of weeks ago, we drove to Winston-Salem to see the baby and meet his wife’s family, who had come down from New York to help for a while. We didn’t get to see Adam, who had to work the late shift that evening, but we spent a few hours with the baby, and it was easy to see him in his son’s features.

We took turns holding him, making silly faces at him, saying inane things in ridiculous voices. When it was my turn, I held him for a moment in the same pose that I held his father in that picture I like — can it really be more than 30 years ago? That R.E.M shirt is long gone, but the memories suddenly came rushing back, flooding around me there in their spotless living room. Adam as a small boy, moonwalking to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” while his mother struggled to get the damned camcorder on. Adam, shouting at the preening bad guys as they strutted past us on their way to the “squared circle” for a championship match against the prissy good guys. Adam, lifting weights with me as a high school senior, beginning to fill out, telling me about the kind of music he liked. Adam, coming home with stories of jumping out of airplanes. It was as if the years were pooling around my waist, the memories floating just barely out of reach.

The dogs had been exiled to the backyard for the duration of our visit — one of them got a little jealous of the baby and growled at my son, Jack, just enough to earn a trip outside. Now, one of them barked, breaking my reverie, jerking me back into the present. For the past several minutes, I had been a time traveler revisiting all of those places and all of those times.

And now here I was in his brand new living room with his newborn son, everything new, everything just starting out for them, every countertop polished, every appliance gleaming, all of the walls still blank in anticipation of the family photos that will soon materialize in tasteful frames and creative designs. Everything is going to materialize for them. Everything. There will be thousands of pictures, every one of them signifying a memory.

Sure enough, a few days later Adam posted a picture of himself holding the baby, Renee by his side. His expression is hard to describe — some mixture of love, excitement, and pride. Hard to describe, and yet it seems so familiar.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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