In my three and a half years on Flickr I’ve had the opportunity to watch three different kids grow up. It’s crazy, looking back over the photographs their parents have put up over the past few years, I feel like I’ve been an actual part of their lives. When in fact – at least until this past week – I hadn’t met a single one of them.

Kids, they grow up fast. Shockingly so. Every time I see my little sister after not having seen her for a few months I am compelled to spend the first hour or so scolding her for growing into such a beautiful woman with neither my permission nor supervision. The same goes with my three “flickrogate” (play on surrogate, a stretch, I know) nieces. Take a look for yourself:

Marta, daughter of Veronica:

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Sabi, daughter of Kelly:

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Rianna, daughter of Rezwan:

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It was Rianna who I finally met this past week in Berlin when visiting Rezwan. Rianna does not tire of being chased around by a red balloon and, surprisingly, I do not tire of chasing Rianna around with a red balloon.

Will I ever meet Sabi and Marta? I have a feeling that one day I will. But to be entirely honest, my emotional investment in these kids might be more abstract. They are our future.

How the world integrates, whether all this new technology is used for good or bad, whether peace ever takes root in the Middle East, and, for god’s sake, whether music evolves beyond “dame más gasolina” – all of this depends on them.

Marta is Ukrainian, but has spent much of her childhood growing up in Moscow and Istanbul. Sabi seems to be as Californian as you can get, but recognizers her Panamanian ancestry and spends much time there. Rianna is Bangladeshi, but has grown up in Berlin. If ours is the first truly international generation, theirs might be the first post-national. They will grow up to be completely bilingual, frighteningly intelligent, and clearly very beautiful. Where they lead this planet, its climbing temperatures, its dwindling oil supply, its colliding concoction of languages, ethnicities, and national allegiances, is completely up to them.

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