Over the weekend, I received some old, old photos of myself. They were grade school photos, college graduation photos and a few of my grandpa and me before he passed away. They're fun to look at (oh my goodness, I'm so happy the '70's came and then went!!) and I can actually see a slight resemblance to my own kids, instead of them always looking like David.
Which got me looking through my own old photos, photos from when Dave and I first got married, our first apartment, our first (and only) cat, our road trips and in-between times. Then there are the monthly updates on my expanding belly as we waited for Meghan to join us, then four years later, it was Christopher's and finally, a year later, it was Big Joe's turn to join us. I keep all our photo albums in our master closet (I no longer update them since moving to the computer and having all of our photos digitally backed up on my hard drive) and like to spend cold winter mornings or hot summer afternoons sitting on our closet floor turning pages filled with photos:
Meghan underneath our coffee table in our first "castle", her chubby little six-month old legs propped up on the table above her, chewing away on her set of measuring spoons.
Joey climbing on top of his birthday presents on his first birthday, his sunlit red curls forming a halo around his little round head.
Meghan's first day of pre-school, her big blue eyes barely peeking over the side passenger window.
Joey, sweaty and tousled, a small grin on his face, stopped in the kitchen, breathing hard from running laps from the kitchen to the living room and back. Over and over and over and over again.
Then there are the firsts, so many firsts. First day of school, learning to drive, Homecoming and Prom. Throwing rocks in the creek at our favorite Civil War battlefield in Virginia. First time seeing snow. Birthday parties, Christmases, sleepovers, swimming in the lake and jumping off the boat. Baseball games in the back yard. Seeing the vast ocean for the first time, his little hand clutching his bucket full to the brim with his dinosaurs for extra security.
Photos of Meghan and Joey giving each other music lessons and having laughing fits. Photos of the two of them sharing a conversation while hiking in Utah last summer. Photos of them playing house and getting ready for bed. Photos of Little Meghan reading to Baby Joe. Photos of Baby Joe comforting Little Meghan when she was so, so sick that summer she was six.
I never set out to be A Photographer, but I knew that I had to record these Big Stories, these Little Stories and all the stories in between. I wanted these photographic stories to show the kids when they got bigger and hear any little tidbits they might have to add about the photos we were looking at in the album in our laps.
Stories and story telling was a big part of my oral history as I was growing up, so I thought nothing of it when I showed first Meghan, and then Joe, the photos of our extended family that I had taped all over the fridge in our Washington, DC suburban kitchen. We lived so far away from both sides of the family that the only way the kids could get to know who was who and who belonged to who, was through pictures and stories filled with details about the people they were being introduced to. They would stand in front of the refrigerator door and point to a picture of Poppy and ask me to tell them about the time when I scared him by grabbing his feet while I was hiding under my bed when I was little. They’d smile and go on to the next picture and ask for a story about that person. And on and on it would go until they knew all the stories that could be told about our families and they felt like they really knew the ins and outs of their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.
To put it quite simply: those old photos of myself and the stories that they conjured up in my memory clearly illustrate how important it is take pictures and to weave a verbal story into the image. I want Meghan and Joe to look back at their childhood photos and be able to remember the Big Stories and the Little Stories and all the stories in between and then tell those stories to their own children and see how their little eyes light up just like Meg’s and Joe’s used to do.
And still do today.