I’m looking at a photo of a woman who is suspended forever in time, one eye squeezed shut and one hand in her mouth, picking something stubborn out of her teeth.
She wasn’t the subject of the picture. It is a photograph of my children from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Yet, here is this poor woman. Permanently fixed as the screen saver on my computer, looking as if she is trying to swallow her hand. She’s standing next to the man with his Butterbeer mug turned vertically to tap out the last drop, and the couple in matching North Face jackets looking at a map of the park and pointing to the left. Butterbeer man remains thirsty; North Face couple remains lost. They are eternally stuck in our tangible memory.
I look at this photo every day as my lap top comes to life, yet just today I thought of them. The background. The people who were part of our day that day, who are stuck here now in awkward unflattering poses.
With an embarrassing start I realized that I am the background in someone else’s photograph. In how many albums am I trapped, adjusting my shorts, bent over to tie a shoe, mouth wide open to shovel in a forkful of food? I am the person walking by, mouth open mid-sentence, unaware that I am in the process of becoming a non-negotiable part of someone’s photographic documentation.
I am humbled by the knowledge that although I am the main character in my own story, I am simply the background of a thousand others; as are we all. Occasionally, we may get to play a supporting role, step up into someone else’s scene. For the most part though, that’s what we are, everywhere we go.
We are the players not named in the credits. Important, but unmentioned. The person in the background, stuck unknowingly in someone else’s story, immortalized in a photograph, forever a part of their memory.
I just hope I’m not the one picking my teeth.