Somehow, the nickname “the babies” has stuck for the younger two of our children. It started as a tease/joke and has stuck around as a term of endearment. Mostly, only Jeff and I use the term. We refer to them that way because they are still in the same elementary school. So we say things like, “Have you picked up the babies?” “I am on my way to drop off the babies.” “The babies need their lunches dropped off today,” etc. I imagine next year with them in different schools the nickname might die. I wonder if someday when they are the last two left at home, in high school, we might start referring to them this way again…that is a funny thought.
So, one afternoon sometime in November, I picked the babies up from school and was struck with how the sun was streaming across their playground. It was literally glorious! Crisp clean golden light. The trees were back-lit and sparkling. I could hardly take my eyes off them as I drove away. You guys must know what a light nerd I am by this point, right? I had Mckenna in the car already, and swung by to pick Drew up from school, completing the gathering of the chicks. As we pulled into the driveway, I told them about the light, and asked if they would be willing to go back to the school so that I could photograph them in it. They were all like, shrug, sure, right now? And I said yes, please, go to the bathroom, drop off your backpacks and meet me back in the car.
The sun (and the children) gave me just about fifteen minutes. I could have wrangled for more time but what I got was just enough. Just enough to get a bunch of pictures that I love, and two pictures that I need. That I didn’t know I needed.
I wonder, does it feel that way for you too? You see a photograph of someone you love (whether you took the photo or not) and it feels like you just found something that was missing? It has captured them in such a way, that until it was frozen into a picture, you didn’t even know it was something you thought was important enough to remember?
This is one of those.
I needed to photograph them on just this day. With the clothes that they picked to wear to school and their rainbow of shoes. Those colorful shoes just really, really make me smile. This was any day. A nothing day. I can’t remember one thing about it other than this moment. No one was prepped, it was come as you are, stand in the light, and then chase each other around the jungle gym until after dark. Just …. us, them, life.
I came home and opened the images while Anna did homework beside me. I emailed them to a few of my closest friends, sharing the story. My friend Margie emailed me right back and what she wrote touched me to the core. She said, “The fact that you went back to take the shots…it says so much about your life. Like it isn’t rushed. You have time with your kids where you can say..hang on let’s do this! And then they are willing??? They weren’t all like..’oh my gosh mom, I have tv to watch!’ I feel like I can breathe when I look at these. They’re beautiful. Love their expressions. Their clothes that they picked out themselves. Their willingness to understand that good light takes priority in life! LOVE THIS.”
That feedback from her was a gift, as all of her feedback tends to be. It helped me see something about me right now that I couldn’t really see. And that is, I am breathing again.
Two years ago I was stuck, depressed, afraid, unsure. If you’d like to know more, I wrote about it here. Back then I started a process towards true mental health and a fulfilling, meaningful marriage and life. Because that is what I need. Slowing down. Being truly present in the moments of my day, not divided. Not as much multi-tasking. Stretching, learning things about myself that hurt, but helped me change. And I am changing. It is hard, but I am doing it. Margie helped me see, I’ve stopped hurrying to the next thing, over and over all day long. The way I used to live.
Everyone is so busy. I see updates and read blogs all about a lot of busy, thriving people. Sometimes I feel that by making the changes that I have, I am not thriving, I am missing something. Especially in the photography industry, it always seems like someone is getting a book deal, someone is traveling to Barbados, someone else is photographing a celebrity. Then there’s me. I’m usually at home. There is a good and a bad side to every choice. I am missing something. But this is what I know: Right now my life is all about these people. It won’t always be. I will have an empty nest eventually. I know that I wasted a lot of their life running and running to the next stage, the next level of development, the next next next. I know that I wish I could do it over again. I know that time has passed, and I can’t. I know that I want to be different now. I know that I don’t do well when I am busy. I get anxious and sick and absentminded. Being busy does not look good on me, no matter how much I want it to.
Even still, I have to constantly remind myself that being busy does not bring meaning to my life.
Giving my children the kind of life where we stop everything for fifteen minutes in the light, giving myself that kind of life…that definitely does.
I saw this quote online sometime this week, can’t remember where, but it has stuck with me. I made this (feel free to download it/screencap it/whatever it) and I thought it was the perfect ending for this post.
What kind of life do you want? What are you doing to get it?