Saturday evening, before we found our way into the theater and our seats, my son paused just past the snack counter. He took out his phone, which he was using as a camera at this instant, and set up carefully to take a picture of the sunset that was occurring just outside the window. I felt my usual tug to get inside and find a seat, but stopped and marveled at the care my son was taking with his composition. I was also aware of his intent: he was trying to capture the beauty he was seeing around him. I made a mental note of this because I could not remember him ever uttering that word, in any of its various permutations: beauty, beautiful, beauteous. It is not a word found in your standard seventeen-year-old boy's lexicon. Unless that seventeen-year-old boy happens to be Doug or Bob McKenzie.
His first shot included a flash, which reflected off the window, and while he re-calibrated his shot, I considered how we found ourselves in this particular moment. Not the part where we went to the movies. We've been doing that all his life. I was more interested in his new-found fascination with the beauty of the world around him. I knew that he and his friends had made a plan on Halloween to meet at the top of a nearby hill to watch the sun go down. Back then, I had assumed it had more to do with the coming of the spooky night rather than the picturesque end of the day. I had not imagined that he and his friends might have been gathering in appreciation of the sunset, something that reminded me of a youth spent watching sunsets with my mother and father, who used that opportunity to rate them. It was my father's insistence that there was no such thing as a "10."
When I went to Key West for the first time, I found a sunset that would disagree with that scale. While I was there, I saw a number of them. It was there that I did the same thing my son was doing. I took a photo through the window on the top floor of the Holiday Inn. I wanted something to take away from that moment. The problem with snapshots is that they can't take up the sky. They don't stretch to the horizon. They are reminders. All the photos of all the sunsets my family has ever taken are dull asterisks to footnote the experience. We have a lot of them. But that doesn't mean I want to discourage my son from taking his share. Let him make and album, post them to Reddit. I don't mind. It's what we do.