The only time I've ever hired a professional photographer is for our three kids' weddings. When we were in the planning stage, if I'd suggested to our daughters or son that I would take the photos myself, they would have thought I'd lost my mind. Even if I'd assured them I would use a long-reaching selfie stick, I am pretty sure they would have voted hard against it.
Picture that, for just a moment. The mother of the bride or groom, running around the wedding, camera or phone in hand. Snapping photos left and right, to capture the moment.....
We paid a pretty penny so I could be IN the moment, and not miss a thing. When the doors opened and our daughters stepped through, on their father's arm, I didn't consider the best shot. I didn't zoom in. I just stood and soaked it in, knowing this was one of those moments I'd want to recall for the rest of my life, and the only way to do so was to be fully present. When our son was standing at the front of the church and his bride stepped through the door, I instantly turned to look at his face looking at her. I wouldn't have missed that for anything.
Those photos - the ones the photographer took - are in books, put away, and we pull them out now and then and enjoy looking at them again, re-remembering. But to really remember those days, those moments, all I have to do is think back. Those three days are etched deep in my memory. As are Christmas mornings from years ago, and seeing our grandchildren for the first time, and watching our adult kids walk across the stage to pick up a diploma, our grandchildren singing songs at school programs, carousels going round and round and trying to get a glimpse of faces we know and love.
It's not the photos that are a treasure to me. Being completely honest, they're actually a bit of a burden. I have a closet full of boxes which are full of photos that may well never make it into a scrapbook. What is now forty plus years of photos is a daunting task to even consider tackling. But the memories - they're not in a closet; rather they are stored up inside of me.
There was that moment in time, almost twenty years ago, seeing my mother and my mother-in-law, standing on the deck of the Maid of the Mist, in their little blue raincoats, as they stood and took in all of Niagara Falls. How can you put a price on that? I'll never forget it. When that happened my phone didn't even have a camera on it, so we just stood and looked at them looking. Something in me is starting to think of then as 'the good ole days', when people were actually present, rather than fussing over snapping shots of moments, never to leave our iCloud storage anyway.
Going on a cruise with my two daughters last week, we took very, very, very few photos. We attempted a selfie stick and were basically a miserable failure at figuring out how to maneuver it. Our phones didn't work as phones - no reception - so we found ourselves leaving them in the room, and going out without them. I bought three photos from the ship's photo shop - one of the three of us, and one of each of my girls, and other than that we have little evidence that we were ever there. But there's no chance we didn't make memories that will last for years to come.
Here's what I truly captured:
Opening our hotel room door the night before the cruise, and there they stood, the two of them, wearing flip flops and excitement at the adventure that lay before us. I screamed, just a little, to see their faces after six months of being apart.
Sitting in a funky restaurant somewhere in downtown Galveston, having lunch together. Watching them watch everything, and remembering them posing with fake zombies on the street. (That's not a photo they would love me sharing anyway...)
Their faces as they stepped on the ship, seeing how big and grande it was. I'd been waiting for that moment and it didn't disappoint.
The nights we sat at tables with white cloths, waiters everywhere, bringing us appetizers, glasses of wine, chocolate desserts, and the three nights the waiters all burst into song and dance just for us. We spent hours at dinner, eating leisurely and not looking at our watches, and we never got tired of it. We also didn't take a single picture.
The day we came back from breakfast, and one of the girls saw her unmade bed from the night before, and immediately curled up and took a long nap. Seeing how worn out she was, and knowing this was the break her soul had been craving, I found a robe and covered her up with it, feeling very motherly doing so.
Going out on the balcony when we were near Mexico and showing them the beautiful turquoise water all around us. Seeing them see.
Lying on a beach, the three of us, bare toes dusted in sand, lined up next to each other. We laid there for a solid hour, reading books and soaking up sunshine.
Excavating the edge of the forest beyond the beach, in search of an iguana, and sure enough all of a sudden there was one. Two feet long and impressive in a creepy, reptilish sort of way.
Watching my two girls walk along the beach, their toes at the edge of the water, heads covered in sun hats and bent over, searching for shells, together.
Sitting at night together, listening to terrible karaoke and talking about what it would take for us to get up and perform. We decided we could pull off "I've Got Friends in Low Places" because everyone would have sung along with us. We didn't but it was fun to consider.
That moment when - planned ahead of time - I tried on a white string bikini for the girls to give me an opinion on. Seeing Sarah's face hidden behind her fingers, and hearing her squeaky voice say, "mother, I don't think you should wear that with me". The bikini is in the Goodwill box, but it was worth the $15 I spent on it for the practical joke. Some of us may have wet ourselves just a little bit from laughing so hard.
We had so many wonderful moments on our trip, and have only a few photos to show for it. So hooray for not adding to the already monumental pile of photos that will never be scrapbooked. And bigger hooray for putting down the camera, putting down the phone, and truly capturing the time together where it really mattered. In our hearts. I already suspect someday, at my funeral after-lunch, the girls will be laughing and reminding each other of that time, on the cruise when Mom came out in that ridiculous bikini. Money, and time, well spent.
So how about you? All this being on phones, and the internet, and selfies and such - do you think it's adding to your life, to capturing the moment, or do you feel the way I do lately? Maybe we're so busy trying to 'capture' every single thing we do that we're actually missing it completely?