Somehow I missed the declaration that made me the “official family photographer,” but I’m certain there was one. I’m always behind the camera.
Not that I mind, necessarily. I like being the chronicler. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember.
The Early Days
Top Right: Aunt AnnieBell Middle Left: Grandma and AnnaKing Middle Right: Mrs. Etheridge Bottom Left: My sister-in-law Brenda & my neice Angie Bottom Right: Aunt Lavelle
Top Left: My niece Angie Top Right: Arthur “Tank” Etheridge, Daddy & my brother Fred Middle Left: Grandma Middle Right: My brother Terry Bottom Left: My sister Crystal Bottom Right: My brother Fred
Later, when I married at the ripe age of 21, I dutifully carried out my responsibilities in my new family of two and at extended family gatherings. I snapped up pictures of Christmas trees and birthday cakes and sunsets and new (old) cars.
All of this was before children. After children, I was like a crazy person, wanting to capture every special moment. Once Hannah was born, I even took drastic measures to make sure my babysitter was equipped with our camera, in the event that a milestone occurred while I was away. I never missed holidays, as you can see from the Tinker and Simba photo.
On a Separate But Related Note
I’m the youngest of five children. I think there are two known baby pictures of me, and one of them is a shot of me with my older sister. Technically, that doesn’t really even count. I swore that when my children were born, each child would have plenty of pictures.
I was wrong.
No one could prepare me for how challenging it is to care for an infant and a toddler, simultaneously. I did well to get my teeth brushed some days, let alone remember to take an equal number of newborn and infant photos.
I feel badly, really I do. But now I take back all those things I said about my own parents, and pray that my younger child will one day forgive me. Or at least find out for himself.
Never in Front
Some time after my ex-husband and I separated, my friend Dudley invited me over for dinner. I packed up the kids and the diaper bag (Hannah was two, Morgan a few months old) and enjoyed some of the best comfort food ever. She’s a great cook! As we sat around their table, I realized I didn’t have any pictures of the kids with Morgan.
Dudley was happy to oblige. Morgan was busy nursing but Dudley snapped a picture that I cherish twelve years later.
A Glaring Omission
When it was time for the church directory photo, I scheduled the appointment and chose carefully coordinated clothing so we would all match. That photo may very well be the only professional photo I have with my children during my time as a single mom. Though I had been divorced for a few years at the time of the setting, I still remember how odd it felt.
Weeks later when the completed portraits showed up in the mail, I received them with mixed emotions. I was at a good place in life and our family was getting along just fine. But there was this glaring omission, the space where their father would have been if things had been different.
Yesterday, I talked to a friend whose husband died more than a year ago. She had recently viewed proofs from her first family photo without her husband. She told me about a tender moment, captured by an observant and speedy professional.
My heart remembered. And ached.
Your Help Please
This Thanksgiving (or fill-in-the-blank holiday/gathering), would you do two things?
Snap a picture or two of the person who is always behind the camera. Though they may protest, the chronicler in them will thank you later. And finally, if ever you have the opportunity, bless a single parent family with their own family photo.