In the past week or so, I’ve gone up to Rockefeller Center several times to force myself to participate at least marginally in the holiday festivities. I figure if I’m not going to have anything to do with gift-giving and party-going and all the other insanity, the least I can do is physically place myself in the center of the excitement in order to observe. After all, I’m not a total Scrooge. I don’t begrudge anyone else their holiday shenanigans. I just don’t want to actively engage in any myself.
The first day I went up, on 12 December, I took quite a few photos of people skating. I originally wanted to just take them of people falling on the ice, but given that most people picked themselves up very quickly after falling, I only got a few shots of people actually down on the ice. So I decided to take pictures of people skating, too. As it turned out, the photos I took were different from what I originally intended to shoot; thus, my experience was completely different from what I thought it would be.
For some reason, I was fixated on a little girl, no more than three years old, on the ice with someone I’m guessing was her father. Something about her just riveted me. I don’t know if it was that her dad was so gentle with her as he held her arms up so she could try to stand up on her skates, or that he hugged her so sweetly when she turned to him, or that he seemed so patient with her. I don’t know. What I do know is that I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe no one else accompanied them and that I was the only person there taking photos specifically of the two of them. I didn’t feel like I was intruding on their experience. I felt like I was sharing it.
Then I imagined the little girl 20 years from now, walking past Rockefeller Center with her dad during the holiday season. Her dad would ask her if she remembered the first time she skated, the time he took her on the ice and she cried and turned to him for comfort. And she wouldn’t remember. It was years ago, after all, and she’d skated several times since then. She wouldn’t remember, but he would, and he wished he had a photo. If only someone had been there to take their picture.
Then I realized that I will never see this little girl or her father again. I won’t know if she ever went back to Rockefeller Center, with or without her dad. I won’t know if she remembered her experience. If she remembered being cold and burying her face in her dad’s shoulder. And she will wish someone had been there to take their picture.
And I wish, already, that I could share mine with them.
More Rockefeller Center photos can be found here.