All of her family photos are amateur in the purest, most endearing sense, characterized by eyes squinted shut and flies shamelessly unzipped, and although the background may change – the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Lincoln Memorial — the photos come in only two standard compositions: her standing beside her mother and her standing beside her father, but seldom, if ever, the three of them as one complete, smiling unit. At first, she thought the incompleteness was merely due to practicality – someone has to take the picture, therefore someone is always absent.
However, there comes a point in a child’s life when she realizes that the relationship of her parents is a romantic one, meaning that it is one without guarantee, one that requires upkeep and, most painfully, one not within the child’s control. She realizes this over a dinner of rare, bloody steaks, set atop the china that she is reminded that she will eventually inherit. She realizes this at the dinner marked by gulps and chews, the clinking of plates and utter disconnect. She realizes this, when finally, her father speaks to say, “It’s a little chewy, honey.” At this moment, the pictures begin to make sense. If the papers are ever filed, the family photos are one element her parents would know how to delegate. Her father would get his pictures, and her mother would get hers (her father getting the short end of the stick in half of his photos are marked by her mother’s lingering finger).
When she left for college, her parents got a dog. Now they take pictures of her mother with the dog and her father with the dog. He is a nice dog, and she hopes that he dies long before they ever have to decide which of his masters he will have to live without.