Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Table Cloth

Fifteen years ago, I put a taupe colored
twin sheet and a set of sharpies
on my Thanksgiving table.

At that time,
our family consisted of just our two boys
and the baby girl kicking around inside me.

My goal was to have everyone in attendance
sign the table cloth with just their name
and a sentiment of the holiday
and then repeat that process every year
until the cloth was full.
I had no idea what a cherished thing
this table cloth would become.

There are signatures on our table cloth
from people whose paths crossed ours,
people who shared a meal and a holiday with us,
people we love and remember with a smile,
people who were only in our lives for a season
and signed our table once
and people who are still present at most of
our holiday meals whose signatures can be seen
over and over again.

There are signatures from people who are
no longer with us on this earth,
leaving behind an outline of their hand
and a few words of kindness.

On the years when our holiday table only had
five or six chairs,
that table cloth reminded us
that we were connected to so many other people
who loved us
even from afar.

If one were to take the time
to read all of the messages on the table cloth
one would find words of longing
from years when David was deployed
and then joyous words written on holidays
when he had returned.

One would read well wishes sent to far flung family
and words of gratitude for
a full house of celebrators.

There are expressions of welcome
to new family members
and warm wishes from old friends.

That table cloth holds fifteen years of life,
love, family and friends.

Some of the words bring tears to my eyes.
There is an entry from Zachary
when he was about 9 years old
that says, "I love the Lord"
and there is a tiny outline of Madison's little baby hand.

There is a message from my dear friend Trudy
that was written a lifetime ago
about the pain of being separated,
but the joy of memories held close to our hearts.

Some entries make me smile
like the year we signed our name
making it known that we were
the first place winners of the neighborhood
Christmas decorating contest
and the many signatures of kids that we love so much
who are now grown up
with little ones of their own.

This table cloth is more than a tradition for me.
It is evidence of a life of togetherness
and being connected
no matter where we were in the country.
Evidence that time flies and
we cannot hold any one thing forever.
Evidence that change is inevitable and is much easier when
gratefully accepted.
Evidence that all things really do work out for good
and that too much time is wasted on fear and doubt.
Evidence of family in the form of friends who we
shared our lives with over the years
and evidence of friends in the form of family
with whom we share a heritage.
It is a reminder that we were never alone
even when we felt like we were.
A reminder that we have led and are leading
full lives,
and that what matters most in this life
is opening yourself up
to others and fully embracing them
while you have them.
Whether they sign your table cloth or
leave love notes on your heart,
the friends and family
that God places in each of our lives are
precious, precious gifts!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shockingly fun

My family is so over my photographs.
They really are.
I can see the "OK now I've got to act interested in catchlights
and composition" look when I ask them
to come and see a client session
that I've just edited.
They just don't get it.
They don't speak my language.
But I really can understand this because
I don't speak my husband's or son's language
when it comes to football either.
I do love the sport and I enjoy
watching key games and cheering as loudly
as the next person,
but to spend two or three whole months of
Saturdays on the couch watching
game after game after game
while so many other things are going on
around town
or being stuck to the phone updates
when you are dragged out of the house.....
well, that's just not my language.
Madison is emersed in her own photography,
so unless she is telling me that I need
to up the contrast on one of my photos,
she'd rather spend her free time pouring over the
1.5 million photographs that she has of herself and her friends.
I get that too.
She's 14 and her own little world
is all there is right now.
What I don't get though is
how shocked my own family members are
that my photo sessions are actually fun events
to participate in.
They've seen my smile upon returning home from a shoot.
They've heard me tell stories of funny things that happened.
They've even acted like they've heard me when they ask,
"How was the shoot mom?" and
I answer back, "It was soooo fun!"
For Thanksgiving this year,
we had my brother and his family in town.
Jeremy and Ashley have the only other grandchildren
on my side of the family,
so I could not pass up the opportunity
to do a shoot while everyone was together.
Trying to get everyone excited,
I pushed the shoot for a week before the event.
It had to take place on Thanksgiving afternoon
because of flight schedules,
so I heard alot about how stressful it was gonna be
right smack in the middle of cooking chaos,
but I insisted that this shoot MUST happen.
I told them that the resulting images from a shoot like this
would be well worth any stress that they anticipate happening.
We put the turkey and everything else in a holding pattern
and off we went.
It seemed fitting that we were doing the shoot
at an abandoned mental hospital.
Upon arrival,
I arranged everyone for the group shots and
snapped away.
Before long everyone was laughing and joking
and having the best time.
I was able to get some excellent shots of my mom and all
of her grandchildren gathered around her.
These are memories that she will cherish for many years to come.
I took a few of Ashley, Jeremy, Zane and Easton too.
I was even able to hand the camera to Jeremy and
let him take a few of our family with me in them.
Upon leaving, my boys kept saying
over and over again how much fun they had.
They sounded surprised that this was not a torturous event.
My husband even told me that he had more fun than he expected.
My mom was thrilled with the shoot and had a good time as well.
I don't know what they thought
my shoots were like
or why most of them thought that this would be a stressful
frustrating afternoon,
but I'm glad they were able to experience
a laid back, natural, fun session with me.
So now they know what I do
and why I love it so much....
even if I still can't get them to sit down
and let me show them a client session
without seeing them roll their eyes
or heaving a big sigh of dread.
Here are some highlights
from our {apparently} shockingly fun family session:

My mom and all her grandkids!

My grandmother and
all of the great grandkids from her daughter Joyce's kids.
My cousin Leah has the other two greats.

My favorite from the shoot...
Ashley and Jeremy.

My three men all together!

Our oldest three.

My favorite of our kids.
This is such a precious photograph
to me because Zach lives in Seattle
and I can't see this everyday in real life.

The family shot!

Another good one of the six of us.

And finally one of David and I.
I've got lots of ordering to do from this shoot!
Beyond the images,
the memories of the time we spent together
as a family laughing and having fun
will be held close to my heart
for a long, long time.