My Java Journal

The Daddy Mona Lisa: Contemplating An Enigma

I was preparing to order a few photos to display from a recent trip, when I stumbled upon The Daddy Mona Lisa.

On my refrigerator is a picture of my dad and I. It is not there for any reason in particular. I found it while looking through files some time ago and I just stuck it on the fridge rather than back in the box. This is that photo:

This photo is likely from about mid-1994. I was in transition from my time in Vancouver and would soon be embarking on my travels through India. That’s my dad and I just chilling. I am fresh back from the West Coast and the Grunge-scene emergence of the early 90’s (and I am right now lamenting the loss of those beautiful locks and that full hairline of mine).

I’m 20 years old in this picture and I am happy. Now, there are smiles, and then there are SMILES. This is a genuine SMILE. I don’t have many pictures that capture this, but there are a few where the lens encapsulates a depth and candidness that doesn’t come with staged photos. That’s a full face-smile you are seeing in this photo.

My dad though. Well, it’s a kind of Mona Lisa smile he’s got going on there. Almost like he’s entertaining the photo-taking process, or perhaps my enthusiasm. Not unlike the Mona Lisa, his expression is enigmatic.

I never paid much attention to this. Not until, that is, I saw this picture:

This is me, now in the role of dad, and my daughter, in the role of happy child with genuine SMILE. I couldn’t help but notice that I have a similar enigmatic smile on my face to that my dad did 25 years earlier. So I asked myself, what is lurking behind that look? Am I too only entertaining this photo, or my daughter’s enthusiasm? What was I thinking at that moment?

Clearly, I’ve been thinking on this since coming across these two photos. I think I understand that enigmatic look though. Now, I can’t know for certain what might be behind my dad’s look, but I think in both cases the mystery behind the The Daddy Mona Lisa is simply this – contentment. These little moments are some of the best that life offers. I can state with conviction that I truly cherish when my kids take the time to sit with me; when they take an interest in what I am doing, or just simply sharing a minute of their time.

These little moments with my kids are becoming less frequent as they get older. They are spending more time with friends, doing homework, engaged in activities, and, of course, on devices. The relationships remain good though.

We are a fairly tight family and I am grateful for this. I think some of this has to do with having been a military family; as we moved and had to start over several times. In these instances we only had each other.

I am lucky to have a healthy, engaged, and close-knit family, and a strong wife to anchor it. A wife I might add, with whom I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. So this post is about contentment. I don’t wear that big and genuine SMILE often, but that does not mean I am not happy. I am a reflective person and I think I default to quiet contentment. Sometimes I just sit and watch the family buzz around me. I am often catching myself just watching and thinking how lucky I am to have healthy and active kids, and a strong relationship with my wife and family.


I hope you find contentment today.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” – Buddha