Do you use Timehop, or ‘On This Day’ on Facebook? They’re great for reminiscing on years gone by – the highs and sometimes lows that have been shared with your social media following: Holidays, pregnancy announcements, births, birthdays and anniversaries; crap days at work, illness, leaving jobs, starting jobs… It’s all there to jog your memory.
Then there are the photos. I like a photo, me, and post a lot, so there are usually lots to see in my memories. H was so flipping cute when he was little (we often wonder what happened?!) and the photos of Tink with her big brothers when she was a baby are lovely. There are millions of her eating – we did ‘baby led weaning’ with her, which was a novelty and clearly needed its own album on Facebook, full of photos of her chomping on cucumber or smothered in pasta sauce. There are loads of her in the garden, on the beach, on trains…
And I look at these photos, and I feel a bit emotional. It reminds me of a time when we were oblivious to what was to come. Many people say that autism doesn’t have ‘a look’, but I’m not sure that I totally agree. I look at photos of Tink taken now, and I see it. I see how she often won’t look at the camera. I see how she has a slightly awkward stance. I see how her fingers might be splayed, or tapping in a stim. I see that slightly vacant stare in her eyes. I see the lack of a smile or, worse, the uncomfortable, forced “cheese” that she knows she’s meant to say, in so many photos.
She hasn’t always looked this way. She used to be much more comfortable with the camera being shoved in her face and would look up with a radiant smile. But not for long. As her then-undiagnosed condition became more obvious, so did her awkwardness in photos.
I now prefer to snap away as she plays, and try not to ask her to pose for pictures, as it clearly makes her uncomfortable. I get much more natural shots this way, shots that show the real Tink, and that beautiful smile that she usually hides away.
But I do look back at those early photos and wonder if we could have known and, if we could, would it have changed anything?