Say ‘Cheese’! A Birthday Letter to my Son

Say Cheese-Dillon

©2016 by Jack A. Urquhart

(Dillon Tyler Urquhart 03.08.1979—08.02.2013)

Dear Dillon,

Today, with your birthday coming on, I tried from old photographs to summon some smile-making memories, a few happy commemoratives from all those “say ‘cheese’!” moments. But it seems my recollections are like the Swiss variety—riddled with holes, the “eyes” never uniform or all-seeing. Entire decades of your life, Dill, have fallen into those voids. The leftovers come back to me in bite-size morsels, sometimes nostalgically sweet and buttery, other times flat-out nutty. It seems your very existence has been homogenized—the particulates broken smaller and smaller, aged and suspended in the milk of memory so smoothly that I have to concentrate in order to taste the cream.

There is a frosted birthday clown in there somewhere, nose Kodachrome-orange as a cheddar wedge, and a roomful of photogenic preschoolers mugging deliciously for the camera. A piñata gets batted around too, heavily stuffed with cheesy “made-in-China” tchotchkes, cellophaned pralines (courtesy of Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw) straight from the “Big Easy”. Also in the mix, a handful of Polaroid memories: a grownup party and you, a chocolate-mouthed thief, grinning, having purloined an unattended Chardonnay.

Strange, it must seem to you wherever you are: all this snapshot straining of the past for a soupçon of ‘happy’? But then, maybe that is the way we human beings experience our happiness—rarely in the present tense, its truest pleasures palatable only after the acidic effects of time? Rather like the aftertaste of a good Brie or Camembert. Or, more apropos of the day, the sugared memory of ice cream and cake that remains long after the birthday candles have all been extinguished. Who knows? Perhaps it’s our delayed experience of the sublime that makes life in the present tense bearable? That is what I’m inclined to think.

And it’s why I choose to remember you, this way, Dillon: as a beaming birthday boy.

Happy birthday, Dear Son.



About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in Washington State.
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1 Response to Say ‘Cheese’! A Birthday Letter to my Son

  1. TermiteWriter says:

    Another beautiful tribute to your son, Jack.

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