He was walking out the door with a red silk tie bound around his forehead, as his curls poked out from under a baseball cap and a brightly colored beanie – complete with propeller.
As for the rest of him – let’s just say – I burst out laughing and reached for my nearby camera. “No, Mom!” he scolded, in the man’s voice that still takes me aback. I immediately set the camera aside, a little hurt at his tone, but complying with his wishes.
We headed out to the car and on to school, where there was an entertaining parade of oddly attired teens making their way into the building.
Times they are a-changing
It’s homecoming week at my son’s high school, which means costume creativity welcomed daily, according to specific requirements: Geeky Monday, Trippy Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday, Tacky Thursday, and tomorrow… hmm, I’ve forgotten. As for my 16-year old, he’s certainly been expressing himself with relish.
But submit to documentation of the fact, through the maternal lens? That, as he made clear – is strictly verboten. In fact, he and his brother permit few photos anymore, and it started when they were around 13. They tolerate the annual holiday photo, birthday pictures, and a few shots of special occasions like prom, graduation, or an awards ceremony.
Gone are most of the candids captured for me to gaze at, afterward, when the cock of a head reminds me of my dad, or both boys are in discussion, together, with a kind of closeness that I’ve always hoped for.
I want to freeze these poignant moments, in my brain and on film. I want my sons to have them as well, when they’re older, and life grows so much more complicated.
I think back to the boxes of photos and videos carefully stored in a closet. I was the family photographer, and I filled albums with pictures of the boys when they were babies and toddlers, and for years after – all those tender “firsts” we cherish: first steps, first day of school, mastering the two-wheeler – and of course, birthdays and holidays.
There are candid moments when they were little, and as the photographer, few that include me, but many with their dad. I made a point of taking them when he was around, perhaps to compensate for all the time he wasn’t, as if I could convince myself that illusion was reality.
The posed scenes come at holiday time, and our style has always been informal. I have family shots for every one of the past 17 years, from the time my first-born was 3 months old.
We’re often sitting on the floor, barefoot, and generally in jeans. Particularly since going from four (plus dog) to three (plus dog). This year will be harder, when picture time rolls around.
I’ve noticed that the images post-divorce are sillier and more lighthearted; I’ve often selected the outtakes for framing, or to send in cards to friends and family. They are the real us – a little disheveled, and usually, happy.
How does it work at your home?
I miss the days when my sons allowed me free reign to document our lives, insignificant moments of joy I don’t want to forget. Nonetheless, I remember being a teenager, and when they say “no” I accept it, with regret.
- What do your family photos say about you?
- How do you bite your tongue and put away the camera – because it’s respectful to do so – when teens bristle at picture taking?
- How do you explain you’re trying to freeze time, just for an instant, because it is so fleeting?