The milestones of life are less precise than those that marked the highways of old. Some large ones -- the big birthday -- are preordained, while others -- the untimely death -- are not. The little ones can come without much fanfare, triggered by a realization that life has moved on to its next phase.

The piano sits alone. From time to time, while I am passing from one room to the next, I will sit upon the bench, shaky and worn, and drape my fingers across the keyboard. The feeling is familiar, yet distant, like a memory. As I press my fingers down on the keys, pallid and black, the music that I hear is new, yet it is a familiar song.

With just a few notes, I am transported to my childhood, yet somehow, I am ever more present. My eyes, transfixed on the notes, begin to wander upward. There on the wall is a beautifully framed photograph.

A little girl, all of 7 years old, sits vivacious and poised. With straight brown hair that falls slightly below her shoulders and a bright, uplifting smile that shows off the spaces where teeth once were, she is completely unaware that she has been blessed with a physical beauty. Her hand rests on the leg of a little boy -- the younger of her two little brothers.

He is 2 years old and full of confidence. His impish smile is just enough to show off his charming dimples. With his short haircut, you just barely notice hints of the blonde curls that used to lie upon his infant head.

Next to him sits his older brother. He has straight brown hair that lies perfectly in place and enticingly big brown puppy-dog eyes. At 5 years old, he is inquisitive and full of mischief.

As I gently lift my hands from the keys, I pause, for in that photo on the wall above the piano lies a song. That little girl is now 13, and though she is still vibrant and beautiful, there is an uncertainty where there was once complete confidence.

The little boy whose leg her hand rests upon is still full of confidence but struggling to balance wanting to be independent and yet remaining a little boy.

The older brother, with his enticingly big brown eyes, though still inquisitive and full of mischief, has finally caught up to himself. There is now patience where there once was none.

Just as the piano sits against the wall to remind me of all that has been, and all that can be, so stands this photograph.

-- Leslie Morrissette, Fairfax Station