Turning the Camera Around

I have such a vivid memory of a moment in the house of my husband's father. William and I had been married for only a few short months. He and Lizzie and I were standing in the doorway between the house and the garage, hudled close together over a book. It was a journal. Their mother's journal. I remember how eagerly we devoured the words with our ears as Lizzie read about what was going on in the mind of her mother, who had lost her third battle with cancer and passed away when Lizzie was six tender years old, leaving her the only female in a house full of brothers. 

I remember how Lizzie looked up at us with wide, wet eyes in a moment a few pages in when she realized that her mother thought in the same ways that she did. "This could have been me," she said. "I could have written these things about my friends."

I remember the dismay and frustration when, just five pages in to the journal, the cursive lettering stopped - and we were left wondering. 

A friend of mine recently lost her mother-in-law. To cancer.

I know that cancer cannot be malicious and is not, strictly speaking, evil. It does not attack by devious design. It has no sentient diabolical plot. But I am too familiar with the rampage of destruction it leaves. I hate its unwelcome involvement in my family, in my husband's family, in the families of so many of my friends.

My friend Holly is a photographer (and does truly amazing work, should you be in the Washington area and in need of a photographer). She was charged with the task of putting together a slideshow of her mother-in-law's life for the funeral.

Holly said, "About a year before she passed away, we all got together for family pictures. NO ONE wanted to do it. It's a pain to get that many people organized and willing, not to mention it was cold and dark. But we did it! And if we hadn't, we would not have a single family picture. To say I am grateful for these would be an understatement."

(Go ahead. Go see their beautiful result. I'll wait here.)

Holly said she realized how important it is to have pictures of yourself. Not for your sake, but for your children. 

This got me thinking. I have lots of pictures of my kids - even professional photographs - by themselves. I don't have nearly enough pictures of my kids with me in them. I have lots of photos of my kids doing adorable and clever things - but not very many snippets of our ordinary, daily lives. Hardly any pictures showing my relationship with them. 

Not enough pictures of what they will really treasure when I am gone - or even when I am a grandma and they look at their own children and remember their own childhood. 

I know, because I have seen the way my husband looks at the pictures he has of his parents. The images he treasures are not the stiff, formal and 'impressive' portraits. The images he treasures are of his father, slouching in a yard chair looking down and saying something to his dog's upturned face while fireworks light up the street ahead of them. Or standing in Lizzie's yellow room with William and Lizzie and a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Thom York that he found in a moment of brilliance for Lizzie's birthday. Or of his mother in her youth, leaning over a book, her long brown hair a curtain over her face. 

The photos they treasure aren't perfect. They're honest.

And I want to build a trove of these for my own children to treasure. 

I will be joining Holly in my quest to EMBRACE THE CAMERA.

Make-up or no. Extra baby fat or no. Pajamas or no. I will be getting behind that camera. 

At the Zoo. Me: hot, sweaty, exhausted and uncombed. Hank: first time on the carousel! 

I always find that I find the most courage when I'm brave on behalf of my children .

What I'm realizing is: it's Hank's joy - not my shiny nose - that's really coming through, here.
Join us?

I invite you go read Emily Anderson's short and poignant explanation of what ETC is all about. Snag your own button, and come be brave with us. 


Anonymous said...

Love that baby face! Great photo - these kids are the best reason to get in front of the camera! Great post!

The Aprecios said...

Darn you, elequent people!

Thanks for showing me up, Stepper :)

I wouldn't mind you quoting me if it wasn't such a dramatic difference in writing levels!

No, in all seriousness I really appreciate your writing and the way you express things and emotions that I try so hard to portray on my blog. I think it's great that you are doing this too, and I look forward to seeing your lovely face every week!

Lauren said...

He is JUST ADORABLE! That little face! My goodness. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Gonna go check out yours now :)

Lauren Rebecca

emily anderson said...

it's important...it's so very important to document us.

and you get it. and i love that.

(and your first picture is hilarious...i've so been there, ha)

Charms said...

Darn you, Stepper. Right AGAIN, as usual.

Fine..I'll get in front of the camera. Sigh.