It was a sweltering hot Saturday. After days of what felt like endless rain we woke that morning to shuffle around town from soccer, to ballet, to errand running and eventually landed at home. On our way in through the neighborhood we passed a house down the street throwing a party with one of those huge inflatable waterslides.
“I wish we were friends with them!”
While I know in the moment you were just after those kids’ waterslide I’m reminded of your love for people. You haven’t quite refined the skill of friend-making. You really love people, you love feeling connected to people, and you thrive when anyone spends time with you one-on-one. Your heart is a little sensitive because you love so hard but in due time you’ll learn to balance your emotions long enough to get through the rough parts of getting to know a person.
“Hey, mom! Do you think we could take our pool out? Maybe skip rest time?”
Let’s pause this day and live in this hour. Your dad and I have a habit of planning away bits of the weekend to spend doing as many tasks around the house as we can manage in the time it takes for you and your sister to watch a movie, nap, or do some other project that isolates you from what we have going on. It feels like maybe we’re doing that wrong. At least too often.
We pulled in the driveway and immediately got to work. Your dad dragged out the pool from the garage while I laid down your baby brother for nap.
“SWIMSUITS AND SUNSCREEN!”
You waited patiently downstairs while Adelaide piddled around with who knows what. You’ve been afraid to be upstairs or downstairs by yourself for some time. You’ll go on your own if you must but you do everything you can to avoid it and so often your sister is happy to oblige, sometimes she even fetches things for you so you don’t have to bother. She loves you so much.
“I found my special sunscreen, mom! Can you help me? I’m so excited!”
This was only the second time in almost a year that you’d be in need of sunscreen. As last summer came to an end you developed such an intense allergy to typical sunscreens, thankfully your doctor found one, a “special” one, that we use just for you. It goes on so thick. I hadn’t noticed it the first time we used it but it seemed much more water-resistant than any typical sunscreen.
I’d notice it later.
Fast forward about an hour, past some splashing and popsicles. You found yourself in time out.
You’d pushed your sister into the pool of water from the top of only three steps toward the slide but rather than pushing her toward the slide you shoved toward the steps and, I’m sure you can hear the ringing of her screams in your memories as she fell awkwardly and painfully back into the pool.
You meant it in jest, as you usually do. It’s hard to remember safety when you’re having a good time. I assume it’s probably hard for most little boys. I know it’s hard for you, the more fun you’re having the wilder your arms fling in the air, the louder your laughter gets, and the harder it must be to hear mom’s pleas for an ounce of tranquility.
So there you are, standing on the front porch, frustrated to find yourself stuck out of the water. I call you over to me to discuss the “why?”. The worst part of time out, the time when I get to talk in circles around what brought us to that point until I sense some sincere connection you’ve made to what I’m saying.
You weren’t listening.
You weren’t even looking at me.
I found myself unusually patient this weekend. I’ve been praying for patience. Patience and grace.
Realizing I haven’t yet started talking and that I don’t seem upset, “That’s the greenest lizard I’ve ever seen,” you spoke quietly. You’re capable of being so gentle. You have a gentleness I yearn for in my own being.
I stared at your face. The water droplets laying so gently on your cheeks caught my eye. How could those water droplets be so lucky? So lucky to sit upon your cheeks, still, in that moment, those droplets so lucky to know your calm. Often times I feel reminded that I know you best. Aside from your creator, no one knows you better than mom. For now, no one quite knows how gently you can love. Those water drops on your cheeks got to see you the way I see you and there they sat frozen on your cheeks. Frozen so as not to disturb your wonder as you lock in on that lizard, the greenest lizard you ever saw. You love color, you love animals, and you love discovering something for the first time.
I ask you if I can take your picture.
“Of course. Whatever you want, mom.”
I return with my camera and quickly snap the photo realizing the water drops, in my mind frozen in awe of you, are really just water drops all the same, dissipating right in their place as water drops would, frozen temporarily by your “special” sunscreen.
“Can I see my picture?”
Of course you can, Noah! I love the way you love pictures.
“Mom. the photos you take remind me of movies I love.”
I’m not sure what that meant, but I know it meant something lovely.
A kiss on the cheek and off you went.
“Be gentle with your sister, Noah!” I hollered after you, remembering that, ironically enough, you seem more capable of gentleness than anyone I know. A secret only I know.
So, having been at this a year there’s so much I’ve learned about myself and photography that I never would have guessed to be the case. Going into the business I thought I knew exactly what parts I’d love the most, I thought I knew who I wanted to photograph, and I thought I knew what would be easy.
My first paid shoot was an engagement shoot. I stumbled my way into that job with a facade of confidence. I put on my most self-assured face and told my friends, “I’d love to photograph you guys! It will be AMAZING!” I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D. I’m a shy soul, horribly shy, and my experience up until that point had only once extended beyond people I call family. Soon after we set a date for their shoot I enlisted one of my dearest friends to play model for me. She and I both realized quicker than quick that I needed to work on three things: directing a shot, staying calm when EVERYONE around stops to watch what’s going on, and instilling a sense of confidence into the person I am shooting.
I thought about these things, strategized, researched and went into that engagement shoot more prepared than anything I’d ever done in my life. It was an hour & half ride to the location the couple had picked out (A location I had never been to! Reason #10834 to freak out.) and there was so much knee shaking and lip biting going on through that car ride my husband, my assistant <3, thought for sure I was going to take off running for home the moment the car went into park.
The shoot was a smashing success. The couple, Neal & Sarah, were incredibly happy with the results, the internet was all a buzz about it, I didn’t fail. There were a few things that helped me that day with Neal & Sarah. Neal, was, and still is, one of the most encouraging people I’ve come across since the beginning of my endeavor. I wouldn’t be able to make the cut without verbal encouragement and that guy gives it freely (High-five, Neal!) and Sarah, well, she happens to be the most photogenic person I’ve had the opportunity to photograph, the fact that I don’t think it’s possible to catch an unflattering angle of her relieved an incredible amount of stress (Thanks for having an incredible smile, Sarah.)
In all, after being lucky enough to shoot a few more engagement sessions last summer I was really surprised to come to the realization that engagement sessions are without question my absolute favorite thing to do.
There’s so much to love about them:
- I’m an absolute sucker for love. The excitement in the air when two people are coming into the beginning of their forever is infectious.
- Happy people look amazing. This same excitement that’s making passerby’s glance at them suspiciously is making them glow. Engaged couples smile, they smile so much.
- The cuddles, snuggles, and kisses need hardly any direction at all from my part. It comes to a point when it stops feeling like a photoshoot and instead just feels like I’m documenting their date. Their date at what will probably be one of the happiest periods of their lives. I always walk away feeling like I got to write a love story with photographs. I LOVE IT.
Somehow, going into this I thought for sure my favorite subject matter would be children, I’d spent a couple years chasing around my own kids, I knew I was good at it, I knew I was comfortable with it. You can’t pose a child, it’s mostly about having a conversation with them and trying to convince them you’re a good guy not a bad guy, or letting them know you have candy. 🙂 I know how to work with kids, and I enjoy it, I love it! But to my surprise, my biggest professional thrill is getting to freeze the love between two people who’ve promised themselves to each other, before the hustle & bustle of wedding planning has gotten to the best of them, before the wedding day, when it’s still just the two of them. The quiet of being ‘us’.