This week, I compiled our annual “chair” pictures from Silver Lake. Every year, we go to Wally’s crazy family reunion (that they don’t call a reunion) in Silver Lake, Michigan. We hang on hard to family traditions there (or at least I do—even though I’ve only been going for less than a decade, I feel we have to mind our traditions, pushing the rest of the people who have been going for 50 plus years into doing the things we’ve “always” done). Because if there is one thing that cements us to this wild ride of life, it’s tradition. It’s the routine of things. It’s the reliable.

Since Wally V was born, we started our own mini-family tradition at Silver Lake of the big chair picture. The big chair is at the edge of the neighborhood we stay at, just a short walk from the lake. We pass it on the way anywhere we go at Silver Lake, since we are talking about a tiny little town surrounding a tiny, beautiful lake. Every time we pass said chair throughout the week, I say, “We’ve got to take our chair picture soon!” It has become a source of annoyance for Wally 4, who, inevitably, halfway through the week tries beating me to the phrase as we pass.

We put the big chair picture off until the last day, because that is what we do. Part of the exciting tradition is wondering if this will be the year that the walk to the chair does happen. Will this be the year we forget? Will we be rained or toddler tantrummed out? Will it be torture? Will they smile, or fall, or fight?

By now, Wally V is used to the big chair tradition. He prepared Vivvi for it—”Vivvi, you have to smile, okay? And then you can have gummies!” And since I love to record the whole Silver Lake trip via photo, by the end of the week, Vivvi is an old pro at pictures. A few days into the trip this year, she had found an old remote in our cottage and was holding it up to me. “Say cheese, Mommy!” “Cheese,” I’d oblige. She’d look down at the remote, then back up at me, “Okay, just one more!”

I love this 15 minute segment of our trip. It is ours. It reminds me that they are growing—all the time, they are growing and getting better and better and I love them. They make my day, and I love them, and they are little shits, and I love them. Because in another year, we will be back at this chair, taking this picture, and even more will have happened. This picture marks progress—progress in becoming the humans they will become. And progress that we survived—we made it another year to this point.

This year, from one picture to the next, we survived an epic winter and celebrated our most fun ever summer. We said goodbye to a grandparent/great grandparent (who we miss all the time). We pitched some fits and tantrums. We learned to talk, completed a first full year of preschool. We learned to play together as best buddies, and to fight as only best buddies can. We said I love you and I’m sorry. And sometimes we laughed and laughed. Along the way, from one chair picture to the next, we had some fun. And that alone is remarkable.

And now, I look at their annual reel and I understand why some of Wally’s family doesn’t hold fast to the traditions. Because time is not something that can be controlled. Time is a beast, and it keeps on its wild path forward. No amount of tradition can wrangle that bitch.

The reel is funny, and simultaneously it breaks my heart. Because it feels like just yesterday that I was putting Wally V in those monkey overalls, and because he didn’t change as dramatically between last year and this year. Which somehow in my mind means he’s leveling off and that he’ll be taller than me soon. It’s one of the many paradoxes of parenting—that they will grow and you will love it and they will grow and you will want to press pause.

So here they are in fast motion, to my great heartbreaking joy.
Wally Silver Lake ChairVivvi Chair Pic