A family historian.
I did my best growing up in fields polka dotted with hay bales, just off a beach of a gravel road my roots are tucked within rolling hills. Every now and again when I crack eggs in the skillet and the sizzle joins the music of a morning full with tumbling feet and eager laughter for the day, I am back in my grandparents' home, my Grandma Bonnie and my Pop. Their farmhouse was one of fairytales. I knew it even then.
It was white and porched and the rickety swing overlooked Missouri hilltops, the same woods we would explore for hours because that's what you did there. Nights were spent under quilts for the many growing bodies that piled in the one bathroom home, but that's where my sisters and I told our secrets and listened carefully because if we didn't let them hear us stir, we could make out the stories the grownups would stay up with long after the moon had risen.
We'd hear their voices rise with passion and higher with guffaws and then fall with the things we knew we weren't supposed to hear, so that's when we'd press in closer to the iron vent we hid ourselves behind to try to make out what we could and then make up the rest.
This is where I did my best growing up.
Soon after my husband and I met, weeks even, a sudden stroke robbed the way my Pop was able to tell his stories. He'd look at us in the years that followed, eyes wet with warmth and affection and we'd hold his hand and wait for him to share his story, we'd wait as long as it would take, but not wanting to trouble us, he'd usually cut it short. "Okay." He'd say. And while this phrase was his often those last years, meaning everything from "Yes, I'm ready for breakfast" or "Someone's knocking at the door", we'd know then it meant he'd have to save his stories for heaven's healing.
And then, suddenly one morning as my grandma made him breakfast, he was whole and healed with Jesus.
My grandma had adored my Pop for a lifetime, everyone who knew him had. But she had declared her love for him at five years old and time had only made their devotion deeper. There are no words for the loss of one's heart but as the victor she is, she knew she had to make good of the grief that gripped.
She turned to one of the most precious things Pop had left on earth - stories, some handwritten, some typed, but the collection was rich. And she bound them up in a treasury and published them for those who knew him and learned from him, those who will someday see him again. It has been a priceless gift to so many. The moments he included in the treasury were simple- stories of neighbors and children and coworkers and his beloved wife, stories of laughter and tears, heartache and gratitude, an heirloom of tender thoughts and wise words. Our family pours over them now and while some may pass the book over for more well-known pieces of literature, I'd question, is there anything grander than a life lived well, a legacy worth embracing for generations?
And so, when my grandmother watched the way motherhood has taught me to study little hands, wrinkled faces, twinkling light and shifting shadows alike, when she watched my eyes so eagerly capturing tangibly what my heart wanted to hold forever, she smiled and nodded and blessed me with the words I hadn’t ever been able to formulate.
Photographs are not just pictures to me.
See, just like my grandfather's treasured stories are now forever for his children and their children and my children and theirs to come, tangible immortalizations of his love and legacy, she was the one who summed up my mission and christened me-
following in my grandfather's steps, with my camera as my pen, I was a documenter, a journalist,
I was a family historian.
Thus, when I lift my camera and fill the frame with tiny bodies pressed in close on a chilly spring morning, as I get in close to catch their shy smile of pride, as I step back to make imagery of the scenes of firsts and lasts and traditions and rhythms and the beauty of the ordinary and magic of the rare, it's not about the perfect smiles, not even a tiny bit.
I’m learning the images I’ve made over the years are not just for me anymore, but them. These photographs I make will be and, in many ways, have already become, fixed footholds of their memories, shaping the way they remember love each day all along the way.
And so, these are some of our own recent images of triumphant firsts and proud recitals and simple mornings and quiet afternoons and spring plantings and budding discoveries and imaginative adventures and the crazy and the chaos and the wonderful gift of days lived together.
(If the thought of a family historian speaks to you, please visit my Facebook page to learn more about a giveaway of a family film valued at more than $900.)