When my Dad passed away last year, we went through photos and made collages for folks to peruse before and after the funeral. We found photos from every aspect of his life (thanks to aunts and uncles and my immediate family’s collective efforts). One thing I noticed? I saw Dad in photos with his siblings, his parents, my mother (wedding photos and maybe two or three others), my siblings, my children, my niece and nephews. One thing missing? His mother. Very rare photos, actually.
Of course, this prompted me to go through picture of my own childhood. I spent hours sitting on the floor going through a bin of old photos. I mean to get them back into albums, problem is I don’t have time for sleep let alone organizing pictures. I smiled as I reminisced about trips we took, concerts and dance recitals I performed in, church rituals I took part in and the like. Again, something was missing. Dad was smiling and beaming holding his children and grandchildren. But my mother? Not in many. Clearly the one taking the photos.
Now, I have a few actual pictures but the majority of my stuff is digital, particularly after Bugaboo was born and we bought our first digital camera. I have photos of them smiling, eating grass, getting filthy, enjoying baths, playing soccer, learning to ride a bike. They’re with their cousins smiling from ear to ear with ice cream smeared on their faces in clothes. They’re on vacation with Daddy, eating sand or faces lighting up as their toes touch the ocean for the first time. They are sitting with our dogs. Sound asleep, butts up in the air, in odd positions. One thing missing?
Me. And that makes me sad.
I have a handful of pictures with my children. I know why I avoid it sometimes. Either I have to take thirty pictures to get ONE GOOD ONE of the boys or I’m taking a candid shot when they are not aware. I’m taking holiday pictures and once in a while I get to jump into one. But pictures of our whole family? While I did get a few portraits done when the boys were younger (mostly for Christmas cards) I stopped doing that a long time ago due to Bugaboo’s extreme disdain for photo studios. I now have a decent camera and take my own little homemade portraits. However, we don’t have ONE family portrait. Not one. There is a really bad, blurry shot or two at a family gathering where we’ve pulled the boys onto our laps and gotten one looking up, one looking down or one crying and one with his head turned away. And I’m in that one. But not many others.
In fact, I searched and searched for a recent one of me with the boys. The only two I found? One from a day at the local historical railroad when they were 4 and 2-years-old. The other from four years ago in Yellowstone Park when we took that ill-fated, cross-country trip when Bugaboo started having the Seizures from Aitch-EE-Double-Hockey sticks again. I have one or two with ONE boy. But again, none of the four of us together.
I’m not going to be here forever. Some day, my boys are going to be going through boxes (or flash drives, or other yet-to-be-discovered technology) full of photos. They’ll remember the trips across the country to see cousins. They’ll laugh when they see themselves as toddlers, butts up in the air or sound asleep sitting at the table with their face down in pizza. They’ll smile remembering Daddy’s strong hands and kind eyes. But they won’t have many of their mother.
I know I’m not alone. Come on, moms, admit it. How many photos do you get in? How often do you hand the camera to someone else (like a spouse or partner) and ask them to take one with you in it?
I’m going to guess that a large majority of you don’t hand the camera over very often. Or your phone, since times have changed.
So let’s change that!
I’m going to make a concerted effort to get into more photos. I’m going to make sure we get SOMEONE to take a decent photo of the four of us as soon as possible. I’m not going to worry about my wrinkles or my grey hair or the fact that I’ve recently gained weight back due to lack of sleep and herniated discs. I want my kids to look at pictures and remember me, remember my hair, remember my Irish temper. My smile. My laugh. Reading books to them. Attending their school events. Making a mess to cook them a special dinner. Cuddling with them to blow out candles on their birthdays.
They are going to see more of me. Even when I’m not there.