There is something intoxicating about photographs of Luke cuddling our babies. I could look at them for hours. Perhaps it's that I know how comforting and empowering his embrace can be, housing strength, love and protection all in the space between his arms and their tiny little bodies.
Wisely, these children yearn to be close to him, sometimes descending to such unloving acts as pushing and shoving in order to get the best seat. When he is away, or even if he has a few late nights at work, they start to wilt like cut flowers in need of fresh water. As far as children goes, this can mean becoming either incredibly sensitive or downright cranky. The only antidote is a swift reunion.
Sometimes I wish I could clone myself (I imagine every parent does, but in this instance I mean for reasons other than having someone else make dinner and change diapers) in order to capture similar moments shared with me. I'll be sitting on the bed braiding hair or holding a tiny hand as the blender makes its unsettling racket and I will take a snap shot in my mind. Like many photographer parents, I not only want my children to have beautiful memories of their youth, but to have evidence that I was part of it.
I have experimented with taking my own photograph, but often it feels weird. The idea behind candid or documentary photography, or whatever catch phrase is used for capturing real life, is that it isn't contrived. In theory, we shouldn't move water bottles out of the way to get a clean shot or ask someone to repeat their actions under better light. I'm struggling to decide how balancing a camera on a stack of cookbooks in order to capture a manufactured moment fits into all of that. It's not like this scene hadn't played itself out a thousand times over. It's just that this time, I made sure the camera was there.
I guess we can leave it at this: if you happen to see a photograph with me in the scene, it's likely a set up (this was an exception). Same goes for anything involving clean children sitting nicely and looking like angels. Everything else is as real as it gets.
Sometimes I get to thinking it would serve me well to have more direction in life. Much of my existence follows the take-it-as-it-comes philosophy. It keeps me on my toes but lacks any real push towards meaningful accomplishment. Yes, I did cleaned the kitchen for the gazillionth time but does that really count as having *done* anything? It isn't something I'm eager to include in the post mortem of my day, though (somedays) if I didn't, it would seem I did nothing but romance the pooch.
Maybe that's why so many mothers start their own websites, whether they be about food, photography, writing or, well, whatever else people muse about. We are the elastic bands in our families. Whenever something out of the ordinary happens, we stretch to accommodate the extra need. It's wonderful to know there is always someone available to fight the fires without disturbing the other person's professional pursuits, but it also means you always have to be ready to drop everything at a moment's notice. After a while, you start to think things like "big projects" are a pointless endeavour because you will inevitably be interrupted and called upon to manage two weeks worth of illness. Having a website ensures you at least have your own little corner of the Internet that isn't going to get angry if you miss a deadline.
This is all sounding very depressing. I'm just in a reflective mood. I was thinking back to a photography course I took last fall through ClickinMoms. The course, taught by the eternally giving and insightful Meredith Askey Novario, aimed to teach us how to tell a story in just one frame. At the end of four weeks of intense introspection and experimentation, we were asked to come up with a project that we could see ourselves carrying forward through our photographic journey. I was stumped. I decided to go with something totally easy: the overhead view.
I'm being sarcastic here. Shooting from above requires one to be tall enough to get above your subject and be far enough above them that your lens will focus. It's great if you want to photograph ants, for example. People? Not so much. My classmates and I were joking that I would need to start including a stepladder in my kit bag. I was going to title the project, "Mom, what are you doing up there?"
(I will admit that sometimes I cheat by holding the camera up in the air and praying for good fortune. It always reminds me of a scene from Austin Powers when I do that. Sometimes it works. Most of the time it doesn't.)
I haven't been doing a very good job of keeping up on this overhead project, partially because of the challenges the technique presents to someone who's only 5'6" (on a good day). But as I was scanning my mind for an appropriate caption to the photograph at the top of this post, it suddenly dawned on me: I might have more success if I embrace an abstract notion rather than a predetermined vantage point. And so I came up with Almost.
So much of life with kids is about watching them try and try and try while fighting the urge to jump in and do it for them (though sometimes this is necessary if one is to arrive anywhere even remotely on time). It is the living version of the Butterfly's Struggle. It's about shoes on the wrong feet, shirts on backwards, standing on tippy toes, mispronouncing spaghetti, the backwards E on their cards. We want them to succeed but at the same time we don't, since that would mean they've grown once again.
There will always be almosts. Maybe this will be the true way to reflect back on their lives, one struggle at a time, one accomplishment almost realized.