It’s funny how the moment that creates the strongest memories can sneak up to pounce upon you out of nowhere.

You can’t plan for them, you can’t anticipate them.

You just have to wait for them to arrive and be wise enough to soak up as much of the joy and the feelings as you can.

My daughters are nine and six, and I have yet to take them in for a family portrait.

I see those photos hanging on the walls of my friends’ houses.

They’re usually taken on an autumn day with immaculate hair and matching outfits.

Although the images are beautiful and refined and I recognize the faces of my friends, I find their personalities absent within the frame.

Their eyes and smiles are composed of prepared expressions, conscious that the lens is upon them, and they instinctively hide their true selves from capture.

I live in quest of the honest moment, a genuine smile that represents a lightening of the spirit.

You can tell the difference in the pictures.

Those images nestle into your soul and provide comfort in times when such things are necessary.

One morning at a beach house, my daughters awoke to find delight in how the sun trickled in through the gossamer curtains.

In their innocence, they commenced to dance, captivated by the pure joy of motion and a complete commitment to the moment.

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Photo courtesy of Walter Rhein

I said nothing, but I took my camera and settled onto the floor to photograph them.

It’s amazing how many of the greatest things in life flutter into our lives and pass back out again before we even have time to notice.

We’re all so busy with work and life and lies that we believe are important.

The truth is that all you have to do to become surrounded by warmth and love is to stop and allow yourself to take it in.

My children took cues from their shadows and danced without music, twirling, and holding the curtain and smiling and taking turns.

They did not fight, each waiting for the other to have a turn before stepping back upon the stage.

As a parent, you always remember a child’s first stuttering steps, the simultaneous feeling of pride and terror.

Pride at their independence and terror that they might topple over or hurt themselves.

You have to fight against the instinct of over protection.

These feelings never go away, but they transform as children learn to walk, run, and dance.

The dancing is particularly poignant because they twirl with such speed and strength that your fears and pride reach a crescendo of joy and pain that can be difficult to endure.

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Photo courtesy of Walter Rhein

My girls knew nothing of this as they danced.

They were utterly present, utterly focused, utterly happy, and I was there to observe and be lightened.

I have no idea how long the shadow dancing lasted. But after a time, mom called from the kitchen. Breakfast was ready.

My girls didn’t argue, they just gathered up their shoes and ran downstairs.

I don’t remember the rest of the day.

We probably swam, we probably ate and laughed and enjoyed our time together.

The memories flow together in a multicolored tapestry that consists of flashes of memory shared laughter and feelings of togetherness: the fabric of the family.

But I remember how they danced.

I hold that moment in my soul and I’ll be forever grateful.

Walter Rhein, is a Small press writer with Perseid Press, Burning Bulb Publishing, and Harren Press. Check his website about Peru by clicking here

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Photo courtesy of Walter Rhein