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Mark your calendar: May 21 is election day! And according to New York State law, so is the second Tuesday in July for most Suffolk County fire departments. The third Tuesday in March is also election day for many village trustees and propositions. Election day for state and local primaries, well that’s June 25 this year. When do you vote on library budget? Each local library has a different day for its election. So, why then do we call the first Tuesday in November election day as if there’s only one day when citizens vote?

Election days can be tough to track. It’s like the nutty old Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on first, what’s on second, and I don’t know is on third.” Yet elections are no laughing matter.

Collectively, all of these elections amount to increased spending, which overtime adds up. It’s not easy getting it straight — not only these dates, but also all the spending.

In recent years, large and seemingly extravagant multi-million-dollar public projects have been both approved and declined by popular vote with lower voter turnout throughout our circulation area. The $14.9 million bond for the new Setauket Firehouse was approved on its third try with just 580 people voting out of a population of several thousand in the fire district. Last year, a bond presented by the Mount Sinai School District was voted down with a 664-428 tally against the project. Mount Sinai has a population of over 12,000.

If one or two days each year were designated election day, it would be easier to hold elected officials accountable by enabling taxpayers to see a broad overview of taxation on one ballot.

At TBR News Media, we would support consolidating elections into one or two universal election days each year. Make it a national holiday, so people are more keenly aware of their obligation. Maybe turn Columbus Day, a federal holiday, into election day? With one or two annual election days, citizens could more easily track spending and stay abreast of community affairs.

But until this happens, as we said, mark your calendars. All elections are important: They determine where our money will go and how much of it.

On May 21, Long Islanders will vote on board of education members and school district budgets, which account for a significant majority of our local tax bills. It’s a crucial vote that typically gains support from parents with children in school, while retirees or people with more limited income, who may have different priorities, make a point to show up at the polls to say no.

That’s the system we have now, so be sure to exercise your right to vote May 21.

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

As I ponder the next step before my pint-sized daughter leaves the proverbial nest, I recall the incongruities between what we expected, what happened and what we remember. Please find below a list of some magical and not-so-magical moments.

The birth of our daughter

What we thought would happen: We had 40, no, make it 42, weeks to get ready for the birth of our daughter who waited well past her due date to appear. We took Lamaze classes — “breathe honey, breathe, there you go” — we read baby books and we had a birth plan. I figured my wife would let me know “it’s time” when her water broke or when the squint-through-them-and-then-smile-radiantly contractions arrived. We’d jump in a taxi and a wonderfully cheerful nurse would welcome us to the hospital.

What actually happened: Our daughter really didn’t want to come out, so the doctor scheduled an induced delivery. We casually packed our small bags, drove slowly to the hospital and walked up to the entrance. Numerous drugs, two days, almost no sleep and considerable anxiety later, our daughter still hadn’t made her appearance.

What we remember: This is tough, because we recall some of the hours of confusion and anxiety, but the end result was so life altering that one of our recurring memories was of a nurse coming in, to ask how many times we changed her diaper after she spent hours in the room with us. Wait, were we supposed to change her diaper?

Early trips to the doctor

What I thought would happen: He’d examine her and tell us what a wonderful job we were doing, and would offer us timely and helpful advice about surviving without sleep.

What actually happened: She weighed less than she did at birth. Is that good? Is that bad? No, it’s normal, he assured us. Why are you giving her shots already? Can’t she get shots later? She looks so peaceful. Why are you making her cry?

What I remember: That shot seemed so painful. We don’t remember our first shots, but we both felt as if the doctor were stabbing us with a sword when he gently inserted the needle in her arm.

First steps

What we thought would happen: She’d take some steps, we’d clap, and she’d be on her way.

What actually happened: We didn’t take away her walking toy until someone told us it was keeping her from learning to walk.

What we remember: Silly us, we delayed her walking because we let her keep using the toy, but, hey, she did just fine.

First athletic event

What I thought would happen: She’d try to throw or catch and ball and I’d be thrilled with her effort.

What actually happened: She played with dandelions and chatted with her friends.

What I remember: She looked great in that red T-shirt with her mitt turned backward toward her knee.

Going to high school

What we thought would happen: She’d share her daily experiences with us and we’d laugh and offer sage advice.

What actually happened: She grunted, we growled, and now she’s graduating

What we remember: She smiled and waved at us from the volleyball court and she laughed with us while we made cookies for her friends.

Driving 

What we thought would happen: She’d drive slowly and carefully and listen to us.

What actually happened: She told us all the advice we gave her wasn’t how we drove.

What we remember: She passed her driver’s test and can do errands and drive herself around. Thank goodness.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It’s still the same old story, only 60 years later. When I was an undergraduate at Barnard, the college president, Millicent McIntosh, who was well ahead of her time, urged the women — actually we still called ourselves “girls” then — to prepare themselves for a career and not just for marriage. “Statistics tell us that you will be alone during some parts of your adult life, whether from widowhood, divorce or not finding a mate. You may have to support yourself and your children, should you have them.” We giggled at the message.

The question then became: Who will take care of the children while we are working, and what will be the effect of a working mother on those children? In short, the issue was how to balance a career and motherhood.

Although she didn’t say it, the answer for President McIntosh, our role model who had several children, was to have help in the home. That was made possible by the fact that she and her physician husband made a sufficient living to pay for that help. That meant for women to have a career was a luxury, and we resolved the career/motherhood dilemma by assuring ourselves that it was quality time spent with children, not quantity, that would make the difference in their lives.

How pat an answer. How innocent. How ridiculous.

This was just before the world changed, just before Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem and the invention of birth control pills. Within the following 20 years, certainly by the early 1980s, women poured out of the kitchen into the workplace, and the two-paycheck family became the norm. Values in America had changed, family income had improved, but the conversation was the same: Who will take care of the children and how will women and men — and the children at home — cope?

So how have we coped?

For starters, women can pursue success in the workplace much more readily, if not yet with pay equality. Women can also support themselves rather than stay in a marriage they may deem difficult. The other side of the coin is that the frustrations of balancing the workplace and motherhood that we imagined early on have indeed come true. And lots of other changes have taken place in society that weren’t imagined.

The relationship between men and women inside marriage has changed. The drive for equal pay in the workplace continues. The rate of divorce has soared in the last half-century. And fewer Americans are even getting married than ever before. 

In 1960, 82 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 were married, but in 2010 that rate had dropped to 44 percent. By 2018, the reproductive rate in the United States had fallen to a 32-year low, which will of course have all sorts of implications for the future workforce and economic consequences on Social Security, among others. Remaining in the middle class now depends, for most people, on two incomes.

And the work-life balance question? Well, that problem still hangs in the air. Someone has to take care of the children, but who? I can honestly say that almost every career-successful wife I have ever interviewed and asked how she managed the home-workplace situation has expressed frustration with the outcome even as she loves her work. 

Couples today work out their own arrangements. Those fortunate enough to have the funds hire help. Roles in marriage have sometimes reversed, with the husband staying at home for the family. Some corporations have realized the benefit of offering paid family leave, so that infants are not left to third-party care. Grandparents have been pressed into service to care for their grandchildren. 

But the bottom line is that the choice to work has now become the necessity in most cases for both partners to support the family. 

The choice is still a luxury.

Reporter David Luces with his mom Ruth

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. It’s a time to celebrate the most important people in our lives, the women who made us who we are. As is tradition, the editorial staff at TBR News Media has written short letters so that our moms know we are thinking of them.

Kyle Barr’s mom Deborah

Kyle Barr — editor

My mom is scared of being apart from me. She is sad she will leave her house behind, the one she helped raise me in for over 20 years.

Like many, they’re leaving because of Long Island’s high property taxes, and without the SALT deduction, it’s proved infeasible to remain. But still, to her, the house was the lodestone of her life for so many years. She decorated it with attention to detail, even dragging me to the attic to take down decorations for every New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July and on and on until Christmas. 

Now she is leaving her temple behind, and I feel for her. She can’t bring everything. Things will have to be sold or given away, and as she struggles with a bad back, picking out the leaves from the bushes in the front yard (all despite my pleas to let me do it instead). I see the frown set into her face like a jagged crack in the pavement.

Feel better, Mom. You may be away from me, but — hopefully — you won’t find a way from my words.

Rita Joy Egan with her mom Rita

Rita J. Egan ­— editor

Mother’s Day brings with it a slew of memories. My mother and I have been through the best of times and the worst of times together, and that’s OK, because we are still here to tell our stories. There are the not so fun times to remember, such as walking around a Queens apartment wrapped in blankets to keep warm in the winter months because the landlady was too cheap to turn up the heat and tears shed over boys who didn’t deserve them during my younger years. But also, there are the memorable vacations, celebrating milestones and catching the concerts of both of our favorite celebrities from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to New Kids on the Block. So cheers to memories of all types and happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

David Luces with his mom Ruth

David Luces — reporter

She’s been there all my life. Someone I can always count on. She’s my role model. She sacrificed so much over the years for my brother and me so we could go to college, and it’s something I am grateful for every day. I don’t say it enough but thank you, Mom, for everything you do. I know I could be a pain when I was younger, but I’m thankful for the lessons you’ve taught me. As I’ve gotten older and matured, I’ve realized the importance of your messages. So, on this Mother’s Day, I just wanted to give my appreciation to the greatest mom and friend a kid could ask for. 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Many of us sit through meetings of one kind or another: business meetings, community meetings, even social gatherings. But did you know that the air we breathe in those closed spaces might not be so healthy for us? If you come out of such a gathering and the air around you then feels fresher and cooler, consider this: “Small rooms can build up heat and carbon dioxide from our breath to an extent that might surprise you.”  So explained a recent article in the Science Times section of The New York Times.

When we breathe, we exhale carbon dioxide. That gas, which we might characterize as stale air in such a situation, can actually affect decision-making as a result of its impact on the mind. Some eight studies over the past seven years have considered the effects on cognitive function in small, airless rooms over a couple of hours. The results suggest that perhaps we should not entirely trust decisions made there.

Carbon dioxide, when inhaled, dilates blood vessels in the brain and reduces activity among cerebral neurons, thus decreasing communication between brain regions. We know this to be true when a large amount of the gas is inhaled but we don’t know so much about the effect of smaller amounts. If student test results are compared in rooms with 600 parts per million (ppm)  of CO2 and similar rooms with 2,500 ppm, the scores of the test takers with the high concentration are significantly lower. It is interesting to note that carbon dioxide levels can be twice that high in some classrooms.

Such studies were repeated in the workplace, with workers taking problem-solving and strategy tests, and the results were the same. In today’s energy-sensitive world, many office buildings are better sealed, with less fresh air seeping indoors. Another interesting fact was that not every type of test showed that same result.  Less complex test material, like some proofreading, for example, did not show a comparable shift.

So the next time you are in such a situation, open a window or keep the door ajar. Perhaps the intellectual level of the conversation will rise.

Now here is another tip for better living that is also from The Times, although published a different day. For those of you who, like me, love to sit around sometimes and do nothing, here is exoneration from the charge of laziness in an otherwise busy world. The Times tells us that the Dutch call this “niksen.”

What is doing nothing, exactly? A psychologist named Doreen Dodgen-Magee, who studies this matter, likens it to a car whose engine is running but isn’t going anywhere. It’s “coming to a moment with no plan other than just to be,” she writes. She calls that boredom, which she doesn’t intend in a negative way.

But the idea of niksen is to take conscious time to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. I like that, although it flies in the face of our always-be-productive American culture. According to some experts, “the benefits of idleness can be wide-ranging.”

Daydreaming, “an inevitable effect of idleness — literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas,” according to Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire in England, who has done research in this area. “Let the mind search for its own stimulation. That’s when you get the daydreaming and mind wandering, and that’s when you’re more likely to get the creativity,” she explained.

It’s not easy to do nothing and certainly to do so and not feel guilty about it. We have to set time aside deliberately to disconnect — and not just from our devices. The reward is that we can refocus with more energy. I have a chair in my living room that I can sink into and just have my mind go blank. It’s even tempting to fall asleep there, and sometimes I do for a few minutes.

Delightful! 

The house on Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach, a relatively quiet, two-lane road that parallels the North Shore coastline is somehow indicative of comfortable, suburban living. The house is quaint and the front yard is loaded with lawn ornaments. Now there’s something hauntingly disturbing at the sight of it.

On April 25, the Suffolk County district attorney announced a multicount indictment of a resident of that Sound Beach house, Raymond Rodio III, for allegedly keeping over 20 women in a cycle of drugs and prostitution over several years, often using that basement for activities related to that prostitution. The parents said they didn’t know. Comments from community members online were similarly flummoxed. Nobody expected a story like that to come from such a neighborhood.

Nobody ever does.

Everyone knows about the opioid epidemic. It’s said you don’t have to stick your arm out too far before you brush against someone who has been impacted by the crisis. For years it has ravaged Long Island, and only with concerted and multiyear efforts from community activists, journalists and policymakers are we finally starting to make efforts from the ground level up. Local legislators and school districts continually host Narcan training courses to aid overdose cases, and with the New York State budget, an expanded access to medication-assisted treatment has become available in both the hospital and jail settings.

Residents have commented online there are houses they suspect are involved in drug dealing, but why would anybody expect that this case also has allegedly been involved in human trafficking?

That’s just the thing — perhaps people need to be more alert to prevent these crimes.

Rodio was allegedly operating this illicit scheme for five years or maybe even longer. He got away with it for that long only until thankfully during an unrelated traffic stop an officer recognized that the woman passenger in Rodio’s car showed signs of being in a forced prostitution situation. 

Prostitution? On the North Shore? Yes, it does happen here, and it doesn’t just take place in seedy motels or in illicit massage parlor operations. It happens at reputable hotels, and online, through well-known websites like craigslist or on dating apps like Tinder. It’s likely that people as young as 15 years are involved. These sex traffickers often recruit online through social media or find young women with poor family lives or with existing drug problems.

It can happen anywhere. The case in Sound Beach more than proves it.

It’s time for parents and teachers to learn about this issue, one that has only grown with the opioid epidemic. Children need to learn the dangers beyond drugs, and adults should learn the warning signs to notice young women who might be involved in these truly horrific situations.

Many North Shore communities have continued to step up in the overwhelming face of the opioid crisis. We can take a stand against this issue as well.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Advice is wonderful, unless it isn’t. The giving and receiving of advice is nothing like the process of exchanging gifts around the December holidays.

Often, there is a not-so-subtle subtext to advice that sitcoms have used to relatable comedic effect. 

A comment like, “You’re wearing that to your date?” isn’t advice, per se, although the underlying message is clear: “You could do so much better.” Extending this even further, the speaker seems to suggest that the listener returns to his or her dorm room, finds something that’s not wrinkled and doesn’t smell like the gym, and then go out on the date.

With high school and college graduations on the horizon, it’s inevitable that people will share their thoughts, opinions and ideas with the person they are celebrating. Here are a few pieces of advice and the translation for them:

Advice: “You might want to study a little harder in college than you did in high school. It’s much harder.”

Translation: “You’re probably lucky to graduate from high school and you won’t be so lucky in college, so take this time to start over and get your act together. Maybe you should consider studying more than 12 hours before a test on material you read all night the day before.”

Advice: “The time goes so fast. Take the time to appreciate and seize every opportunity.”

Translation: “I missed out on a lot of things in college and I’d like to go back and take better classes, find different friends and start over again. How about if you invent a time machine while you’re in college and send me back, so I can do it right this time?”

Advice: “Not everything your professors tell you is true, accurate or in your best interests.”

Translation: “Someone told me to major in chemistry. I hated it. I did something else for a living and it would have helped to take courses that made more sense. I could really use that time machine about now. How about if you make that your senior thesis?”

Advice: “Pick your friends carefully.”

Translation: “I didn’t really like your high school friends and I wish social media didn’t exist, so you wouldn’t stay in touch with all those people who steered you the wrong way. How about if you pick the nerdy woman who’s going to start her own company some day or the intellectual guy who plans to open a new school? Maybe, instead of asking me what classes I think you should take, you should send me a list of your prospective friends. That way I can be like a Roman emperor, putting a thumbs up or thumbs down on the relationship.”

Advice: “Pizza and soda are killers for the waistline.”

Translation: “I had the “freshman 20” and it took months to lose it. I blame pizza and soda which, at college, is pretty much 90 percent of your diet. Good luck avoiding the easy sugars and carbs when you’re up late at night, having the conversation of your life and you need energy so you don’t nod off when your friend from New Zealand with the cool accent shares some story you know you’ll want to recall the next day.”

Advice: “Floss your teeth.”

Translation: “This comes from hard-earned experience. Flossing is the best way to prevent root canals and those are among the most painful procedures many of us endure as we age. That is probably the best advice for graduates leaving the nest. If you floss, the older version of yourself will be eternally grateful.”

As of May 1 James Holzhauer won his 20th game of "Jeopardy!" Wednesday, which means he now ties for the second-longest winning streak in the show's history.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Did you know that the Boston Tea Party, during which colonists boarded British ships anchored in Boston Harbor and pitched their precious cargoes of tea into the sea, was organized by a local chamber of commerce? In 1773, in response to the onerous Tea Act imposed on the North American colonies by the British Parliament, the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce — that’s always been a tough part of town — called its members together and dramatically displayed their displeasure at yet another tax. And the rest is history — our history. 

All of which is to say, chambers of commerce have been around for a long time and, in their own way, can be quite powerful.

How do I know about this? I was watching the television program, “Jeopardy!” the other night, fascinated by the latest contestant who has won well over a million dollars so far and in record time, when the answer to the final question about a group founded in 1599 was, “Who was the chamber of commerce?” Intrigued, I looked up the history of chambers and discovered that in Marseille, France, tradesmen had banded together at that time to protect and promote business. They called themselves “chambre de commerce,”
chartered by King Henri IV.

There are all sorts of chambers today: international, national, national-international, state, regional and particularly local such bodies. They still have the same mission and generally are respectfully regarded by the public. They tend to be a nonpartisan source of information about their towns, especially regarding business, and membership in them suggests a certain authenticity. There are roughly 4,000 local chambers in the United States today, according to the internet, and they often advocate with government on behalf of business. 

Our media group belongs to eight of them in the areas we serve across three townships. Some are larger, like Huntington and Smithtown, some are just getting started, like Rocky Point Sound Beach. Earlier this week I attended the Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce Coalition, usually referred to as the BCCC. Founded in 1992 by Barbara Ransome of Port Jefferson, among others, the BCCC was celebrating the 20th anniversary of its annual gala, honoring a member of the year chosen by each of 16 chambers. Some 230 people filled the room and patiently applauded as the chambers in turn introduced their winners.

The now-famous “Jeopardy!” contestant, James Holzhauer, did have the right answer but only barely squeaked by one of the other two challengers to enlarge his winnings and earn the right to return the next night. Holzhauer is one of the more unforgettable characters that have appeared on the show. He is both “extraordinarily knowledgeable,” as described in The New York Times, but also has brought an unprecedentedly aggressive strategy to the game program. He is, by his own description, a professional sports gambler, and starts with the high value questions first, then bets shrewdly and big on the Daily Double. He thinks nothing of interrupting the amiable chatter from host Alex Trebek and moving the pace of the traditionally polite game faster. Married, with children, he is laser focused most of the time but seems to have relaxed a bit and even joked with the audience, as the days go by and his winnings pile up.

Holzhauer is different from the long line of previous contestants in key ways. By his own admission, he is used to winning and losing large sums of money all the time, so he doesn’t tremble when he bets $60,000 on the Final Jeopardy question. And he knows he is well prepared for the game.

What is the secret to his immense knowledge of trivia? He wasn’t a diligent student in school, he admits, but he prepared for “Jeopardy!” by reading children’s books in libraries where facts are presented in an interesting way. He worked really hard to achieve his longtime goal of getting onto the game show, and he studied to win.

Three cheers then for chambers of commerce and libraries. 

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We can’t help but notice while commuting to work or on the road to cover a story that many people aren’t yielding the right of way to emergency vehicles which race to help our neighbors. It’s a complaint we’ve heard from our fellow drivers as well as the men and women who dedicate their time to making our communities a safer and better place to live.

Whether on a congested road or one where traffic is flowing freely, not yielding to a fire truck, police car or ambulance with their lights flashing and sirens blaring could lead to firefighters not being able to rescue the occupants of a burning house or a heart attack victim not being saved.

For decades, the main rules have remained simple — slow down and pull to the right of the road parallel to the curb and stop when you see an emergency vehicle with its lights and siren on near the vicinity of your vehicle. Don’t merge back into traffic until all emergency vehicles have passed, unless a police officer if present tells you otherwise. Of course, rules suggest motorists keep clear of any intersection and not tailgate a fire truck in hopes of bypassing all the other drivers who are trying to merge back into traffic.

For years now, in New York state, drivers must also be mindful of emergency or hazard vehicles, such as tow trucks, that are parked, stopped or standing along the side of a road. Called the Move Over Law, drivers are required to slow down and move over a lane away from the vehicle if it’s safe to do so.

Of course, many people are familiar with the laws, and others may not necessarily be breaking them on purpose. Car cabins today are made to keep outside noise to a minimum, so it was no surprise to us when we learned that many local fire departments are using horns with a deeper bass feature so drivers can feel them in addition to hearing them — if they hear them.

Sometimes, it comes down to being more mindful while sharing the road with both other vehicles and the people in the big red-and-white trucks with lights flashing.

Not hearing these sirens can also be attributed to car stereos or from people enjoying their music with earbuds. There is also the case of drivers distracted with their cellphones or when texting, even though it’s illegal.

As the weather gets warmer, and more people will be out on the road trying to enjoy all the Island has to offer, we encourage our readers to reacquaint themselves with the rules of the road or pay closer attention to other vehicles. If you’re already well versed in the laws, have a conversation with others in your life, especially younger ones who are not as familiar with the rules.

The main goal is to make it easier for our emergency workers because if it were our house or life they were saving, or that of a loved one, we would want them to get to us as quickly as possible.

Young man photographing family at outdoor wedding. Horizontal shot.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Something about a posed picture brings out the prankster in me. I realize, of course, that posed pictures can and do capture a moment when a group of people come together.

In fact, I recently visited the athletic center of one of the colleges that admitted my daughter and stared, for hours, at the faces of athletes over the decades who took time out from their sports games and practices to have a picture taken. Without the uniformity and decorum, these pictures would have been a free-for-all with little structure.

And yet, in my own life, I can’t help seeing the camera and the formal process as an invitation to assert my individuality or, at the very least, to force the formality off someone’s face.

I can trace this back to formal extended family photo sessions we had when my brothers and I were young teenagers. Every so often, the aunts, uncles and cousins would get together. When they did, someone inevitably wanted to capture the moment for people to revisit years later, which, I guess, is around now, given how long ago the younger versions of ourselves forced a smile on our faces for those pictures.

So, anyway, I remember this one picture, when I was standing between both of my brothers, which made sense at the time because I am the middle child and my younger brother hadn’t decided I stopped way too early in the height department. As the photographer was getting ready to take the picture, I reached down as subtly as I could and pinched my older brother’s thigh, causing him to grin broadly at just the right moment, if you’re me — or the wrong moment, if you’re the photographer.

To her credit, my mom kept that goofy picture because, unknown to me, the photographer had taken a head-to-toe shot that clearly showed my fingers pinching my brother.

When my younger brother got married, I recall my father’s extended family all trying to line up for a family photo or, as my aunt said at the time, a fa-mi-lee pho-to, as she enunciated each syllable in a way that would cause poets to cringe. She accented all of the syllables and spoke so loudly that the camera picked up her demand to get everyone in their place.

Later, as we watched my brother’s wedding video, the whole family discovered an unknown treat. At some point, the videographer had clearly asked my uncle, one of the more serious and least playful people I ever met, if he had any marital advice for the newlyweds.

Seated in a chair by himself, with the music playing in the background and plates of hors d’oeuvres passing in and out of the frame, he paused for a moment before looking straight at the camera.

“It’s a sense of humor,” he said, cracking the smallest of wry smiles.

As my daughter and nephew prepare for their high school and college graduations, I can’t help wondering what the young men and women in the photos will be thinking when the many amateur photographers insist that they move a step to their left, lean to their right, stand up straight or open their eyes wider, no, less wide, no, wait, wider.

Hopefully, my daughter and nephew will be able to look back at pictures and see something more than a group of people celebrating one moment as they prepare for the next one. Hopefully, the camera will capture something, small though it may be, that brings a smile to their faces months or years later. Maybe the perfect imperfection will transport them back to the moment someone insisted that they “give us a natural smile” on cue.

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