meet bailey and her pup, madison.
and oh how i loved them.
and oh how i loved photographing them.
then emily came along ... and guess what? i loved her too! and, what's more, i loved photographing her! a baby, i assure you, was even more fun to dress up and photograph than my dogs ... imagine that.
(clearly, we liked hats).
i even photographed all three of them together!
because sometimes you have to wait a little to see how things turn out.
kind of like parenting.
i guess that appears incredibly archaic to me now ... now we take a gazillion pictures and it costs virtually nothing --- well, sort of nothing. (let's pretend we aren't including the cost of our snazzy digital cameras). now when i snap a picture my littlest one hurries over to me, tugs on my arm and asks me to show her the LCD screen on my camera. she knows she can view the image immediately. she even knows how to push the correct buttons to scroll through the photos.
things have changed.
it seems excruciating to my girls (my boys never seem to care very much) to have to wait even five minutes while i go load the photos onto my macbook. i can't hardly explain to them how it "used to be." they look at me blankly when i tell them i once used film.
"film? what's film?"
film which required me to stop into a store, fill out an envelope and wait several days for processing. film which required not only processing, but a good dose of patience.
my girls can't quite process that concept. they're like, "mom, but why didn't you just use your iphone then?" perhaps i am exaggerating a wee bit, but you get the idea.
times have changed.
i mean, we still have two big dogs and i still take a gazillion pictures, but other things ...
like that first born girl ... she's changed. a lot. and that thought, my friends, seems even harder for this mama to process than those old vials of film. the little girl who i used to dress up and prop up and photograph (like it was the only thing i had to do in the world) ... well, i blinked, and that first born is now a senior in high school.
and it doesn't much matter if i'm taking her picture with film or with digital photography ... because i don't need pictures to tell me she's grown up.
last weekend it really hit me. my dear friend, diana, emily and i headed for downtown minneapolis to shoot her senior pictures. emily wanted "something different." (of course she did). we all liked the idea of a cool, urban setting. three peas in a pod we were traipsing around in 95 degree heat. all of us enthusiastic though and up for the adventure ... even at one point climbing into an abandoned warehouse just because it had a cool fire escape! and it was fun. not stressful at all. we laughed and joked our way through the hot-as-blazes-day. we were all in our element. diana is amazing behind the camera and em was amazing in front of the camera. i, like a good mother, did my job pretty well too, holding outfit changes, lipgloss, powder and water bottles ... while cheering them both on! i also had to work at holding back a few tears when i watched my girl getting her picture taken. she was wearing the wedding pearls rick gave me 23 years ago.
but there she was in her jean jacket, cowgirl boots and my wedding pearls ... and at one point i couldn't bare to watch, so i counted cars passing by. really, i did. i was determined not to cry onto the blue silk blouse of her next wardrobe change...
more has changed than how we process film. and i am no closer to wrapping my brain around this passage of time than my girls are in understanding archaic photography.
it just happens.
even when you're looking, it happens.
i never looked away. really, i didn't. Lord knows i've kept my girl right in front of that camera lens for the past 17 years. right in the center of my viewfinder ... right in the middle of my mama-beating heart.
but somehow ... she grew up anyway.
and there's not a darn thing i can do about it except embrace the change, embrace the moments, and, more than anything, embrace the girl.
because she's not only grown, but she's going to be gone in less than a year. and those of you with kids who have already flown the coop, you know... you know what i'm about to face. you know the emotional current running underneath everything she does in this final year of high school -- every bowl of cereal at my kitchen counter, every volleyball match, every late night talk on the porch, every prayer whispered by her bed, every hug, every time i hear her singing in her room, every time she asks my opinion on a hairstyle or outfit, even every load of her laundry ... you know the bittersweet mixture of pride and joy and fear and excitement and grief.
you know the heaviness of my heart and the sound of my sighs ...
she says to me all the time, "mom, don't cry. you know i don't like it when you or dad cry." of course she doesn't. and of course, i am careful. and of course some times when i'm in the middle of watching her, i have to turn away and count cars ... you know it.
and so we do our best to capture, to embrace and to begin letting go ...
i've heard it said that motherhood is a continual letting go. from the time our babies leave our bodies we are required to release. we pray for that to be gentle ... and sometimes it is. when we walk our child into their kindergarten classroom and the sweet teacher is waiting with open arms and a big smile, we know she's in good hands and she's going to be just fine.
but sometimes it isn't. like the times when we drop off our child and we're not quite sure. like when we just have to wait and see how things will turn out.
last year, when we moved to minnesota, i had a moment like that with emily. our plane landed and 3 hours later she had to walk into an unknown gym, meet an unknown team and perform in a pre-season scrimmage for an unknown coach. she didn't know a soul. she was 16 and she had just stepped foot into minnesota.
she played in the scrimmage that night like a deer in the headlights. i stood off to the side of the gym with a lump in my throat, knowing this was one of those hard "letting go" moments of motherhood.
i'll never forget that hot night in the gym knowing i couldn't do a thing for her. she was on her own. she would have to sink or swim and all i could do was be there.
we don't know where emily will end up for college next year, but i am pretty sure, that lump in my throat will be there the day we leave her in her dorm room and hug her good-bye ... i'm pretty sure i'll have to look away and count cars or count something ...
but i'm also pretty sure, this is all a part of the motherhood-blessing. the holding, the releasing ... the providing, the pushing ... the savoring and the surrendering.
and though we might do our best to capture a million moments with our cameras, we must ultimately learn to let go.
processing...patience...prayer ... and then, letting go.