About five years ago, my husband gave me a swanky camera for Christmas.
After opening my gift, I was speechless.
My mind immediately jumped to worrying over the cost of such a gift – a gift with all of the bells and whistles. I knew that he had spent more on me than he would ever expect anyone to spend on him. Or that he would ever spend on himself.
This is his generous heart.
My new camera opened up the world of photography to me. Photography was a fledgling passion of mine, a part time past time that I was beginning to develop a keener interest in
He, being the supportive and wonderful husband he is, made it a point to encourage my newfound pursuit. It was as much an investment as it was a gift. He was investing in a happy wife who could pursue creative outlets and build her confidence, while also maybe not go crazy in the meantime.
It was a pivotal moment for me.
(He gave me a way.)
This past Christmas, I gave him an album full of photos from the year gone by. It was wonderful to give him something tangible that was produced by my hobby five years after he gave me a leg up on a new journey in my life. He encouraged an outlet that wasn’t directly related to chasing small children, even though it at times has been almost exclusively used to record those child-related happenings.
I can look back between when I unwrapped that wildly unexpected present and now, and see a pronounced change in my abilities from that first Christmas to this last one. I have much to learn, but I’m further than I would have been without his generosity.
(I found a will.)
Today, I was scrolling through the photo library on our computer. Recently, the computer decided that its memory was too full (the nerve!), so I’ve slowly been deleting unnecessary photos and files off of my computer in an effort to purge.
Just this morning, I found dozens of videos, and hundreds of photos from a seemingly bygone era in our home.
A time when we just had one child. When the kitchen was still painted yellow, and we didn’t have the white shoe cabinet in the corner of the dining room that smells like cedar. Our son was a chubby-cheeked, floppy-haired chipmunk who kept two fledgling parents on their toes.
As I thumbed through these photos and videos, some slightly blurry and a bit fuzzy, I realized that I had no immediate recollection of having even taken them.
The video of my son and me in the cozy green chair in the living room, nestled up with a pile of books stacked high. Him laughing as I playfully squeezed the inside of his thigh just above his knee. Him sitting on the back steps in the kitchen, covered head to toe in Crayola markers – I’m still thankful to this day that they were washable, other wise I’m sure he would still be tattooed in ever color on the spectrum
Videos of my son, turning on the shower head, and drenching himself while naked in the tub, and the look of amused shock on his face.
Then there were the photos. Pictures upon pictures of yellow haired, tiny children. Afternoons spent at the park or out in the backyard. Afternoons that now seem like a short lifetime ago.
I looked at that tired mother in some of the photos, I studied myself with a lot less gray in my air, and I was transported back to feeling every ounce of anxiety over whether or not I was doing a good enough job.
Those days at home with two small children that seemed endless and tedious are now just one footnote in the pages of our family’s story.
The mother in those photos was so tired, so unsure of herself. Today, I wish I could have given her a hug to say thank you.
Thank you for taking those photos.
Thank you for not giving up and putting the camera down even when the kids weren’t being cooperative.
Thank you for not closing the camera on your phone just because someone at the park might have been giving you side-eye.
Thank you for ignoring the thousand and one articles on the internet say that you can’t ever fully experience a moment if you have a lens out.
Thank you for having enough presence of mind, even though your eyes were so heavy with exhaustion that you thought they might fall out, to think to snap a photo of the things I truly want to remember.
Thank you for clicking away even when everyone in the photo had a bad attitude, because you knew you’d get at least one shot where everyone was looking at the camera.
Photos tell our stories. Photos let us relive our story. Again and again.
No, it’s not an exact replica of one moment or another, whether they were good or bad, certain or uncertain. And no, not every photo is of a pivotal, life changing moment.
But a photo in the hands of the heart that’s looking to remember is like hands holding a hidden jewel.
The things we take photos of are assuredly the things we love. The things we seek. The things we want to think about one day, when we’re older and we have forgotten. Or when we are gray, and crows feet branch out around our eyes.
Our photos will only ever be precious to us, like some distinct, bespoke treasure.
So listen, I get it.
It’s the holiday season.
And if she hasn’t already, your mom or wife or grandmother or girlfriend will soon want you and everyone else to put on an odd, matching sweater.
She’s going to want you to shave, and wear those pants and that tie you never wear. She’s going to give you several options for the color palette that best highlights everyone’s eyes when you could honestly care less.
She’s going to want you to help her dress the kids in stockings and button down shirts that will definitely get messy if they leave them on for more than three seconds. And she is going to want you to load the kids into the car, and drive to the park or the Christmas tree farm or to some photographer’s studio.
Or maybe she’ll just drag you out to the backyard where she has a tripod set up, and she’ll be hurrying everyone up and yelling something about the lighting being perfect right.now.
She’s going to want you to spend half an hour smiling so hard that your cheeks hurt while you have to pretend that the camera isn’t there. She might even threaten you a tiny bit, heck she might even want you to fake laugh until your sides hurt. One of the kids might cry. She might tell you where she’ll hide someone’s body if you all don’t smile.
She might turn into some unrecognizable scary person in the pursuit of one Christmas card worth shot.
You must actively fight off the instinct to resist her every step of the way.
I say this, with an urgency and sincerity: the memories of you, on this day, mean more to your mom/wife/grandmother/girlfriend than literally almost anything.
These photos will warm the nooks of their coffee stained hearts for years and years to come.
Whether they end up in an album or stuck to the fridge with a magnet, on someone’s desk at work or in a pair of hands weathered by time belonging to someone who loves seeing those family shots. These photos now are the treasures for when these moments are long gone. For people who will one day be long gone.
These photos show that we were here, even if we might have been pissed off at the time because we didn’t want to wear a bowtie.
Not to be crass, because it IS Christmas and all, but you can surely suck it up for a few minutes, buttercup, and you can take the photo. You can be be one to have a gracious attitude so that your children or your siblings and relatives catch on.
And one day, when times have changed, and you’ve gone the way that we all eventually do, when you’re old and gray, and you’re holding in your hands the faces that smiled long ago, no mater what’s happened in between now and that day to come – you’ll remember that you were there. They were there.
And that you all lived.
And it will be your hidden treasure.