All photos by Amy Straka Photography
I had been wanting to get a new set of family pictures since my daughter was born eight months ago. A year had passed since our wedding and even though we have fairly regular documentation of our photos through our smartphones and less regularly via our point-and-shoot digital camera, I wanted some professional, perfect-looking shots of our complete family. I wanted our wedding photographer to take the shots, but she lives 1,200 miles away in Indiana and the cost of flights was not in our family photo budget.
I was THRILLED when she told me she would be in our area visiting family and would be willing to meet us for an outdoor shoot. With this one minor detail confirmed, the real planning began.
What will we wear? Does the schedule work for all of us to be there at the same time? How do we keep the kids happy, fed and hydrated to bolster our chance for smiles? I looked in my closet and realized that none of my picture-worthy clothing fit. I am still in baby-weight limbo -- too small for the clothing that fit me in the months immediately following delivery, but not back to my pre-baby shape. I wondered if the three-year-old had shoes that were nice enough since she spends the majority of her life in plastic sandals.
My stepkids would both be with their mom on the day of the scheduled shoot -- which meant my husband had to ask his ex to steal the kids for a few hours so we could get our Christmas card shot. Oh, and if possible, could she bring them to the location since we would be driving from the beach? Fun stuff.
I started to get a little stressed out. It wasn't just pictures of us on a regular day that I was after; I wanted pictures of us looking "Happy Family" magazine-ready. I sent a Facebook message to the photographer mentioning something about how I just wanted a few good shots of my beautiful family. As if she didn't already know that?
I went out and bought a new pair of jeans, a neutral top and some brown cowboy-esque boots because a friend from college wore a similar pair in her latest family pics and looked super cute. I brought up the issue of haircuts for the men in the house (a sensitive topic that should not be approached willy-nilly) and asked my husband what he was going to wear.
"What do you want me to wear?"
"I'm glad you asked," as I threw a few suggestions out there.
As life would have it, the day of our shoot ended up being a scheduling nightmare. We were invited to two parties and my husband was slotted to deliver the eulogy at his best friend's funeral that night (an unexpected event). My stomach started to churn. With everything going on, and so many more important things vying for our time, maybe family pictures just needed to take a backseat. There would be another time, right? I decided to keep our photo appointment, but resigned myself to the fact that the shots may not be the Good Housekeeping version of my dreams because there were just so many other things demanding all of our attention.
In the days leading up to the photo shoot, I watched my three older kids play nicely together and my baby learning to crawl. I popped in our wedding photo discs to track down some photos of my husband's best friend, who had officiated our ceremony, for his obituary. I stared at the young faces of my oldest kids in those wedding shots and was taken aback at how very little they all looked. Only 18 months had passed and yet these were already faces of kids that I used to know. I glanced at a few of myself in my wedding gown, no sign of pregnancy in sight, and remembered that my youngest was still months from existence on that day.
A deep realization suddenly tore into me as I looked at those shots from the happiest day of my life: time was moving too quickly. Wasn't I just stressing over what our daughters would wear at the wedding? Didn't I just post a Facebook status about the surprise that would be our little Erinn? When did my stepson start making his own PB&J's?
Images of the past year and a half started to swirl, and blur, and bleed together. I didn't just need a Christmas card shot; I needed something to freeze time for me, even momentarily, before any more of it passed. Once I identified the true source of my angst, I started to relax. For better or worse, the photos would be of my family and that was inherently beautiful.
The day of the photo shoot arrived. My husband and I had the schedule planned down to every last detail in order to make all of our stops and keep our notoriously grumpy-away-from-home baby happy. I opened a travel bag in search of mascara and found a cool pair of earrings and a necklace perfect for my outfit that I had totally forgotten that I owned. My older daughter let me brush her hair without complaining. My husband wore the shirt I asked.
My stepkids' mom was fine with bringing them to the shoot and asked if she could stick around and a snap a few shots of her own. She also invited my daughter over to play for the day after the photos while my husband, me and the baby drove around to our other commitments.Our three-year-old tomboy was wearing the ruffled skirt and matching top with a rosette neckline and smiling about it.
The photographer found a quiet park and suggested we move the shoot there, preferring it to our original, busy location. She led us to a few different spots and started snapping. Before I knew it, the shoot was over without any major hangups, meltdowns or wardrobe malfunctions. The familiar feeling of not wanting it to be over so soon swept over me and something akin to panic accompanied it.
Would those shots be enough to remind me in a year, or 5, or 10 that my daughter used to smile so big that her eyes nearly closed? Did we get enough of my stepson being protective of his little sisters, even in the face of no danger? Was the photographer able to capture the unrequited joy my older three felt when their baby sister was anywhere nearby? Would I always be able to remember the way my husband worked so hard to tailor that portion of the busy day to what I wanted because even if he couldn't tell exactly why, he knew it was of utmost importance to me?
Gradually the panic faded. We thanked the photographer immensely and made plans on receiving the completed shots electronically. We drove away from the older kids, and headed off to complete the rest of our day. As we celebrated a new life at a baby shower, and remembered a lost one at a funeral, my mind kept flashing back to the kids in our wedding photos and the ones that had shown up that morning for me. I realized there was no way to bottle time or freeze the moments, not even with the best photos. Time was marching on and with such distinct movement. I knew I couldn't stop it; all I could do was enjoy the present.
I squeezed my husband's hand a little tighter as he prepared to deliver the eulogy, and was thankful for a baby that wanted to sit on my lap. A photo from our wedding flashed across the projector at the funeral home. What a beautiful moment that was, I thought. I looked at the faces of the grieving and decided that was a beautifully, heart-wrenching moment too because for all the sadness in the room, a reverence for life permeated the air.
Not a perfect life, by any means, but a life that was worth every fleeting moment.
You can contact Katie by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
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