The subject of picture-taking has been on my mind a lot lately. As a family, we’ve moved beyond the phase of well-kept nap and meal schedules, and of carrying a bag full of extra everything—change of clothes, snacks, cups. We travel lighter. I feel lighter. My hands are free again to reach out for a camera that’s been charged and isn’t already full of photos. They are new feelings. Capturing family life is rusty.
In earlier years, I snapped away often and seamlessly. When we first had Orlagh, I carried an old Nikon that I fed with black and white film. I also kept a calendar reminder to update pictures every few months. It was a good goal of not letting things slip by unchronicled, and not spending too much time behind the lens, or running to the store to get pictures developed.
It went that way for Iris, too, who came along nearly four years later. The desire to take pictures came with an added layer of wanting to hold onto moments of siblinghood in its primal phase, though we didn’t know yet to what extent. Our girls weren’t yelling at each other for swapped nail polishes, or for a toy that had never looked more irresistible than when placed in the hands of the other sister. Pictures are of Orlagh feeding Iris from a bottle, tiny hands on a tinier body; our life in motion captured in winter walks with an ambling toddler and a baby strapped warmly to me.
When they started to become more active, picture-taking stopped. Almost entirely for a few years. I captured big events like grandparent visits and candles being blown out, but, for the most part, the flurry of family life with young children was a great excuse to let the days unfold. I didn’t think about my camera. In the haze of crappy sleep and oh! where have I left my wallet, my keys, ohmyiamlosingit—time passed quietly by.
I think about the photo albums my dad made and still makes well into his 80s. As a retired architect, his desire for neatness and diagrams extends easily to scrapbooking. When we visit my mom and dad, sometimes I pull down an album from a shelf and page through it. Their albums are neatly pressed side-by-side, like soldiers protecting our memories. Each has a typed label with the subject and the dates it holds. The layouts of extracted memories vary: full-page wedding photos of couples, profiles of my mother, panoramic shots of their extensive travels, our extended family in its various stages. Until now, I hadn’t thought about these books and how much they must mean to my parents. Until now, when I notice Orlagh’s new bangs, and Iris’s summer tan, I think about how I cannot stop capturing these things, the smaller the moment the better.
There is so much written and said about motherhood and parenting, and how quickly the years pass, though not the days and definitely not the nights. Nothing feels more real than knowing this now, where we are now. I’m content to start taking pictures again. And to figure out how best to chronicle our family life, maybe a little bit on this blog, and also a little bit in albums.