I have been fascinated and greatly inspired by the portraits, pictures and photographs other people have taken and posted online over the holidays. A slew of pictures came across my Facebook feed over the past couple of weeks featuring beautiful shots of homes and décor, along with gorgeous family pictures and portraits of beautiful children dressed up in Christmas finery. I was so inspired by these photographs that I thought I would set out to take and post some pictures of my own.
But when I started looking around my home and then finally focused my gaze through the undiscriminating eye of the lens, I was continually frustrated by what I was seeing. My snapshots of home did not look as picture-perfect as those I had witnessed in other photographs. Nor were my family photographs as full of character and winsome charm.
The red eye/alien eye was annoying, and the sharpness contrast was not as defined as I would have liked it. And sometimes there were even things in the pictures I did not want there. Like plastic bags that would appear as if from nowhere. And those green extension cords to power candles; where does one tuck them away neatly?
A picture on the wall was often askew. And the poor, forsaken angel on my tree was leaning a bit too far to the front. Ready to topple on top of an unsuspecting child looking for a forgotten toy that might have happened to still be under the tree. And there were other odds and ends that made the pictures less than perfect, serving to add to my frustration with what I was viewing through what would be the truth of my camera lens.
As if this wasn't enough to keep me down, I decide to try to take some pictures outside. In natural light. What could possibly go wrong? I organized the children and my husband together for a snowman-building project. As soon as things got going, one child had already pummeled another child in the face with snow, while I ran around trying to capture everyone in some sort of artistic impression of a snowy afternoon of fun. As the afternoon wore on, the kids became bored or cranky and the numbers gradually dwindled. Leaving me no choice but to put down the camera and pitch in.
Meanwhile, the snowman was coming along nicely. We had him at about 7 ½ feet high, with two black paint can covers for his eyes, rose hips for his smile and the traditional carrot nose. Hydrangea buttons and two twig arms topped off the remainder of his extremities, and I "borrowed" husband's fur-lined ear-flap hat that he bought as a souvenir in Europe to keep Mr. Snowman's head warm. Husband was not impressed. But no matter. All that really mattered was the picture.
Things were just about ready for the big photo shoot. I had convinced the child in the house to "please" come out, and I rounded up the rest of the troops. And then I called husband to grab the camera from the front passenger side of the van, while I ran back to arrange everything one last time. This was going to be the best picture. Ever. Or I would die trying.
The scene was just perfect. Mild afternoon weather. Sweet snowman. Perfect features. Everything au naturel. Nevermind the fact that all had fallen apart mid-snowman assembly. What mattered was the picture. The kids were placed strategically around the snowman, and I quickly look back at Husband as I called out for him to take the picture. When I glanced back again at the kids, I was horrified to see that the snowman was leaning. It was most definitely leaning. Then, it was no longer leaning...it was falling. Falling, pell-mell. Run-for-cover falling. And in a sudden rush, snow began to fall in an avalanche as I screamed for the kids to, "RUN!" My littlest one narrowly missing the snowman's belly landing on her head. Snow was falling everywhere. Kids were crying. I was awe-struck. Husband stood in disbelief, his camera still ready to shoot. And so he did. And this was the prize picture he took.
I am learning, slowly, but surely, that life is not about taking the perfect picture. It is about the big picture. And the smaller ones that define and describe who and what we are. Husband turned and said to me, after the snowman fell and we were rebuilding a second, "He's just like all of us. Falling apart and getting re-built bigger and better again." And I agree. Our family life is all about that. And then some. Falling down and getting back up again. A million and one times.
Life is all about the moments that pictures cannot ever capture. It is about both the perfect and imperfect moments that are the real deal outside the lens. Not necessarily what's always seen through the lens. Rather, the best pictures are those seen with the naked eye through the lens of the heart.
These, the sweetest pictures of all.
Generational differences can be put aside in a galaxy far, far away. (p. 16)
We can always take comfort in knowing that on Mom and Dad’s watch, we’ll never be put in harm’s way. (p. 46)
Cute, cuddly, occasionally terrifying. For the kids, dolls are like members of the family, so AFP honors these tiny lifelike inanimates for making it all right to talk to ourselves. (p. 54)
This resourceful dad wasn’t going to let a little rain spoil the vacation. (p. 108)
Holidays make everyone in the family go a little nuts. Maybe it’s the pressure of getting to the Easter egg hunt on time, the dilemma of finding the perfect Halloween costume, the stress of preparing the annual Thanksgiving feast, or the anticipation of finding out what’s under the Christmas tree. In the name of holiday spirit, we spend an entire day endeavoring to turn a simple chicken egg into a masterful work of art, or wear costumes made by Mom and Dad, who swear to us that being a construction-paper tube of toothpaste will make us the envy of all the kids in the neighborhood. We dress up as Pilgrims and Indians and reenact the most unrealistic version of the first Thanksgiving ever. We find ourselves carrying candles and parading around the neighborhood singing songs about figgy pudding to strangers. But as ridiculous as holidays and their traditions may be, at least the whole family suffers together. (p. 153)
He’s wondering if they come with a gift receipt. (p. 42)
Not everybody was thrilled with their position in the family. (p. 98)
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