My mother-in-law often tried to shy away from the camera, and I am not sure why. She was a beautiful woman, both in and out. She had gorgeous blue eyes that lit up when she told me sweet stories of Scott and his sisters or the special needs students she worked with at school. She had love for so many, and it showed.
I can’t help but wonder if she avoided being in pictures because she was self conscious, or if it was just the fact that she was so busy caring for everyone else, that she forgot to jump into pictures. If she was self conscious, I am not sure why. All I saw was a woman who was a second mother to me, a generous woman who literally gave her everything to those she loved.
A few days after her funeral, Scott, his sisters, his dad and I all dug out a bunch of photo albums and we found OODLES of old pictures of her from her younger years, one of which was one of her pregnant with Scott (one of my favorites). As we looked into the albums of more recent pictures, we noticed as she journeyed further into motherhood and grandmotherhood, she became less likely to BE in the pictures because she was the one taking them.
I think this is something all of us mothers struggle with. I know MY mom is the same. Back in May, for our Mother’s Day post, I asked my mom for a picture of us together when I was young, and she only had two or three. When she saw the one that I picked, she got annoyed with me because she said it wasn’t the best picture of her. I am not sure why she thinks that! Sure, I am being a stinker in the picture, but it captures our relationship perfectly. I love that picture because it is one where she is half laughing and half smiling, and I love seeing my mom with a genuine look of happiness on her face. She is such a beautiful woman who puts everyone else before her, and when she lets us take her picture, that love shines through. Like my mother-in-law, she too, rarely gets in front of the camera. I often have to coax her to cooperate, but in recent years, she is more amenable and I am grateful, especially so that Andrew can have pictures with his one surviving grandmother. She is such a big part of his life, I want to be sure to have photos of all of us together.
I, myself, am one of those people who doesn’t shy away from the camera. In fact, if you asked my mother, she would make a joke that I am a “ham” and will always jump in for an opportunity to have my picture taken. But, over the last two and a half years, a little bit has changed. Ever since Andrew was born, I have jumped at the opportunity to capture his cute little mug for pictures, no matter what the occasion. Photography is one of my hobbies that has truly become something I adore, even more now that I have my own little person to use as a model. And fortunately for me, he takes after my “ham” tendencies and smiles for the camera 95% of the time. The problem with this is, if I am “behind” the camera, well, it is sort of hard for me to be IN the picture.
I often forget to get in the photos. A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine came in town, and we took Andrew to the zoo and to the Insectarium. I took a ton of really cute pictures of him with her and with Scott. But it was after she had left that I realized that I didn’t get in a single picture with them. Huge fail on my part, but I feel better knowing that I was busy enjoying the moment with Andrew when he was cracking up over the orangutan giving him a stare-down. I don’t have to be in EVERY picture, but once in a while, I have to remind myself to jump in and hand off the camera, even if it means giving up control of the exposure and the way I WANT the picture to come out. Sometimes I just need to let go and let Scott or someone else catch a quick picture! Even if I look terrible in the picture and my hair is sloppy and I’m wearing no makeup, it doesn’t matter. Andrew will not care in 30 or 40 years whether or not I was perfectly coiffed. What he WILL care about is that he has pictures of us together to remember me by, just like I treasure the few pictures I have with both my mom and my mother-in-law.
The one thing I learned nearly 5 years ago is that sometimes a quick smile and posing for a picture with our family or our kids will mean more to them in life than any gift. It will be the gift of a the smile of your beautiful, giving, and loving spirit captured in a photo. That old adage is true, a picture IS worth a thousand words. In fact, it is worth a lot more than that, especially to your family.
Eudora Welty, one of my favorite southern women writers once said, “A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”
Don’t let the opportunity run away. Give your kids that gift. Get IN the picture.