This is a photo of A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh stories, along with his son, Christopher Robin Milne, and the stuffed bear that inspired Winnie the Pooh.
A.A. Milne died in 1956.
Christopher Robin Milne died in 1996.
The stuffed bear, which was given to Christopher Robin in 1920 before his first birthday, can be found in the New York Public Library.
People love this photograph. The combination of father, son, and the bear that inspired so many beloved children's classics warms the hearts of many.
When I look at this photo - really look at it - I am forced to hold back the tears every time. This is what happens to me when I look at old photographs. I know that's strange and unfortunate, but it cannot be helped.
Here on some day in the late 1920's, a father and son sat before a long forgotten photographer, so much of their future still ahead of them. So much love and laughter and joy as yet to unfold. They must have felt so alive in this moment. So primal. The days and hours and minutes of their lives stretching out before them like a seemingly endless chain of light and warmth and surprise.
Thirty years later - perhaps in the blink of an eye from their perspective - the father would be dead.
Forty years after that, his son would also be dead.
This joyous union of father and son, creator and inspiration, would be broken forever. And if not for a series of books that parents read to their children before bed, these two people - father and son - would eventually be forgotten, like almost every other person alive in the world when this photograph was taken.
A planet full of people, most dead, almost all forgotten forever in both body and deed. Every beautiful moment of their lives lost to the death and the dirt.
All that survives from this particular moment is a stuffed bear, an inanimate object that magically comes to life in the pages of books and the minds of readers, but still, nothing more than stuffing and button eyes, a gift once purchased at Harrods in London for a boy who had been alive for days instead of years but is now gone forever. This small gift, which inspired so much more, has outlasted the two people in the photograph.
It remains while they do not.
I see this photo and think about the moments just after it was taken. Father and son rise from their seated position, thank the long forgotten man behind the camera, and walk off, perhaps hand in hand, the little boy clinging to his toy, each step bringing them closer to dissolution and death, unaware of the moment just captured would endure when they would not.
I see this father and son - both dead and buried - and I see every photograph of every father and son, a captured moment of potential and primacy that will end the same way.
This is why I must hold back tears when I look at old photographs like this.
I know what you're thinking:
What the hell is wrong with this man? Is he okay?
Fear not. I've been carrying this stone for a long time. Most of my life, in fact. It is how I have always seen the world. I've actually written about it before. It's a part of me. Not something I like but something I've grown accustomed to.
I'll be fine. I promise.