My husband and I took a selfie tonight. We don’t usually do that, but our grandchildren gave us T-shirts recently, and we wanted them to see our smiling faces as we wore their gifts. Wearing the words “My Favorite People Call Me Papa” and “Nanny Life Is the Best Life” made us both smile, but they also made us realize how much traveling has taken place on our road together.

As I looked at the picture on my phone later, our entire life sort of came to me in bits and pieces.

In my mind, I can clearly see a picture of the two of us together on our wedding day. We look so young because we were. We had no idea how much would happen in the next few decades. We weren’t thinking past the days we were living—who does when they’re young?

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I flash forward to us as a young couple with a new baby. We look tired and deliriously happy in the way most new parents do.

These pictures are so precious, stirring up happy memories of this new stage of our adventure that was still itself in its infancy.

I see, in my mind, pictures of our family of four after our son was born a few years later. Our dark-haired beauty, at almost three-years-old, walked proudly down the hall of that maternity ward to meet her baby brother. The picture of the two of them together for the first time will forever be in my heart. It still does something to me every single time I’m in the same room with them and see them together.

There are so many fun pictures that are stored up inside of me. Pictures of trips to the zoo and museums and all the places parents take children, silly pictures of us in our home and yard just being a family and doing what families do, and formal pictures taken after a struggle to find just the right outfits for everyone.

I see us at ballgames, school plays, church performances. Times when our reluctant happiness was etched on our faces as we stepped back and watched our children spread their wings a bit.

I can close my eyes now and see us at high school and college graduations, not quite aware of how we got there.

I still see the rather stunned look on our faces as we watch our babies in their caps and gowns receiving diplomas and degrees. In our minds, they should still be running around our feet, looking up at us expectantly, but instead, they moved a bit further away from us every day.

Life changed so quickly without us ever knowing it would. There was a lifetime of precious memories packed into a few fleeting years before we transitioned to our new life, a life full of happiness we didn’t know would come to us as parents of adult children.

There’s a picture in my mind of the four of us on the night before our daughter got married. I can see another one of us in the minutes after she said I do, turning our family of four into a family of five.

I see my husband and myself in the hospital right after the sun rose one glorious morning as our first grandchild, a grandson, brought sunshine into our lives in a way we had no idea anyone could.

I see us holding our new granddaughter in our arms a few years later, flashing back to that time when her mother was our own baby wrapped in a soft pink blanket, as we look into eyes that instantly pierce our hearts with an unbelievable love.

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There are so many delightful pictures in my mind of time spent with both our grandchildren—these are pictures full of smiles and laughter. I now know to slow down and savor each picture in a way I didn’t quite grasp all those years ago as a young momma.

On nights like tonight, when we’re alone in our home like we are most of the time, I see who we are now. I clearly recognize the changes that have taken place over the years. Yes, we’re Papa and Nanny now, and I’m so very grateful, but we’re more, too.

We’re still the same young couple who fell in love long ago. We’re still those young parents full of joy and pride because of the amazing children God blessed us with.

Through all the times in our past as well as our time now as grandparents, one thing has remained constant. We’re still us.

The people in the picture have certainly changed. In fact, if you saw all our pictures taken over the years, you might not recognize us, but inside, where it counts, we’re still us.

As I look at the faces of the two people in tonight’s selfie, I can’t help but see the effect of time. Yes, we both look quite different now, after all nearly four decades have passed, but as I stare into the eyes of the couple smiling happily for two precious grandchildren, I’m glad for everything else I see. I’m happy for all the memories that hold us together. And I’m grateful for the pictures we both carry in our hearts.

Sandy Brannan

Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, is a high school English teacher. Creating memories with her grandchildren is her idea of a perfect day. You can follow Sandy and read more of her writing at https://sandybrannan.com  and .