Sunday, January 9, 2011

If A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words...Then My Heart Speaks Volumes

I don’t take a whole lot of pictures anymore.

This wasn’t a conscious decision, but it is a big change from the person I used to be.

In my early days as a mother, I was a huuuuge scrapbooker.  I did what every typical mother does.  I took one million pictures of my first born, around 500,000 of my second, and by the time the third one came around I took about two a month...just so she would know she wasn’t born as a 5-year-old.

I used to be one of those people who, not only took pictures at events...I took them at every different angle so I knew that I would have at least one, good “croppable” picture (I know...I just invented a word.  But if Sarah Palin can do can I).

However, in my new, too busy, crazy widowness (take note, word)...I click, no more.

Now, part of the reason for this is because I lost my camera and after 2 months of looking...I still can’t find it.  I can, however, remember putting it someplace and thinking, “I bet I’ll forget where I’ve put this.”

Does anyone else do that?   All I can think is that it’s probably keeping my glasses company...which I lost a short time after the camera while thinking the same thing.  And that they’re both probably nestled in a comfortable mismatched sock nest.

Anyway, I rationalize the fact that I have not purchased a new camera with the fact that I now own a phone that takes pretty good pictures.  The problem with that is...I have no idea how the damn thing works and I can’t figure out how to get the pictures off of my new-fangled phone and into a usable format.

Needless to say...I have issues.  But you already knew that.

I will admit that I began to take less and less pictures as the kids got older because I just didn’t have the time.  It’s one thing to take a picture of a single child lying on her belly in the middle of your living room floor when she’s pretty much immobile.  But trying to get 3 kids to look at you and smile in some sort of normal fashion when there’s an elephant at the zoo who’s looking like he’s getting ready to poop (sorry...we’re in the “potty word” stage at my house) pretty much an impossibility.

And these days...I pick my battles.

I’ve felt guilty for years about my “lack of documentation.”  I was so good about it for so long.  I have a scrapbook that documents every moment of the first year of my oldest child’s life.  My son’s is half done.  And my youngest is probably going to think she was hatched.

One of the things that makes me the saddest about giving up on “memory making” is that in the back of my oldest daughter’s scrapbook, she has a beautiful message written to her by her dad and then a separate one from me.  I was surprised...when I asked my husband (the engineer) to do much time he took.  It’s obvious that, at 12 months old, his daughter had his heart and he told her so...before she was even close to understanding it.  And when I (the English major) read what he had to own letter paled in comparison.

Thanks to my short attention span and (later) considerable lack of free two other children don’t have that.

For me, scrapbooking was more than just a way to be creative and get together with my friends.  I have always enjoyed listening to my grandparents talk about how things were and what was happening when they were growing up.  Scrapbooking became more about journaling to my kids (and their future kids) about what was going on in our lives, than it was about the actual pictures.  There is a big part of me that is so sad that I’ve let that go. 

Unfortunately...picture-taking just wasn’t quite the same after my husband died.

I think for awhile...I just couldn’t stand the thought of taking pictures of events he was missing (and now that I say that out makes absolutely no sense).  For the most part...I was in all of the family videos because he was the only one who knew how to work the video camera.  But he was in all of the pictures because I was the only one who remembered to take them. have him suddenly not in anything...that was a pretty huge gaping hole while I was trying to document our family history.

I’ll be honest...after he died...I didn’t even download pictures for 3 months.  Oh...I took them...I just didn’t download them.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that that would be the last time I downloaded pictures of him.  I know to a lot of you...that may make no sense. 

But to this still makes me sad.

When I finally did get up the guts to download them (mainly because I was worried that my memory card would rebel at some point and just flush them all), it was such an emotional experience.  I downloaded 250 pictures...from 2 weeks before he died in July to Halloween. 

That is still my hardest “folder” to look at.  There is nothing that drives home the fact that he is gone, more than a series of pictures where one day he’s there...and the next he’s no where to be found.

I’ll be honest.  I’ve decided to let go of my guilt in the picture-taking department.  I try and journal because I want my kids to read about what I went through...what they went through...and how special they are to me.  I want them to know that even though they think I’m perfect (there is laughing in my head right now)...I have always just been human. 

I want them to someday know that being “okay” with life didn’t happen overnight.  It’s a long, slow process and that in the game of life...almost nobody draws a full house. 

I have no pictures of the first moment I saw my husband.  But I can picture it like it was yesterday.

I have very few pictures of the fun times we had in college (and the ones I have, I should probably burn.  You know who you are).  But I remember being so completely happy.  And thinking, “I can dress him better.”

Our ride, alone, from our wedding to our reception...there are no pictures.  But I remember looking at him...being so happy...and wondering if my hair was coming down.

Mad rushes to the hospital where we would meet our next member of the family.

Driving in the mountains where we would get lost because I can’t read a map.

Just an every day family dinner.

Holding his hand as he left me.

I still take pictures every once in awhile so that we can remember occasions...but not at every angle hoping to capture every second of life.  Because I know that the most memorable moments...good or bad...are usually never documented with a picture.

They’re documented in our hearts.

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© Catherine Tidd 2011


  1. omg.. beautifully said.. these words came from my heart too.. thank you.

  2. I am right there with you! I rarely take photos anymore either. I have a room full of scrapbook supplies - and a hard drive full of years of photos that I can't bear to look at yet. I can't yet look at any photo albums, or videos, with dh in them...except the framed ones, which are still all over the house. Our last family portrait has a place of honor in our living room... our wedding portrait hangs on my bedroom wall. But I can't imagine when I will be ever be ready to build the scrapbooks again...
    Thanks, Tanya Z

  3. From Margaret Valsechi

    I have boxes and boxes of actual pictures, but what is most disturbing is they are divided up as pictures before Steve died and after Steve died. I was good way back in the day about putting them in albums and then it kind of got away from me. So after Steve died I found over 20+ rolls of 35mm film and over a period of months had them developed. My youngest who was 8 at the time finally got to see her father hold her the day she was born. I know terrible, but now 10 years later, she has those pictures in a beautiful frame. I dont take pictures as much as I should, but now I am finding myself looking for pictures of my son who passed away 3 months ago. Now I am like a crazy woman tagging myself in any picture of my son from his friends and his own albums on facebook. I wish I had taken more pictures of my kids with both me and my husband, and now I wish I had taken more pictures of my son and me. So my lesson here, I need to take pictures of my daughters and myself and those I love.

  4. I understand the guilt oh so well, but mine is slightly different. I had dwindled on the picture taking by the time the third child came around. When hubby was diagnosed with cancer I started taking more. It is still really hard because his appearance changed drastically but at least I have them to cry over. I am still working on the guilt!

  5. Beverly Borgatti BarthelJanuary 10, 2011 at 3:23 AM

    This was so beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes... especially the ending
    Really loved this!
    You have a beautiful style.

  6. I can relate to this post so much, I forced myself to take pictures of the girls after he passed, mainly because he passed two weeks before thanksgiving so I didnt them to be older and say "where are our christmas pictures from 2009?" but its so surreal, the day before he died I took a pic of him with our youngest and its the sweetest pic ever, right before that shot I took one of just him and never realized till weeks after he passed in the pic he is looking up, its so strange, the sun in coming in from behind his head and he is looking up, the next day he was gone, its all so hard and heartbreaking, thank you for sharing...(starbound73-Susan)

  7. Such a profound message. I have been taking pictures of my kids like crazy since my husband died because I don't want one more moment to go by without proof that we all existed. But you are right, the real moments are in our hearts. Thanks for giving me new perspective today!

  8. I empathize. Strongly. It took me about a year to start taking pictures... my husband was the camera man in our household and it felt SO BAD to pick up a camera and take pictures even though my beautiful children are still moving through their young growing-up stages with or without Daddy. Documenting every moment is impossible. I think the lack of pictures shows some of the darkness from this period of our lives.

  9. Thank you all for your comments! As all make me feel better because I know you understand!

  10. Thanks WC, this is beautifully written. I totally understand. My husband and I took tons of picures. My husband loved to take pictures. Since he passed, I barely have taken any pictures. I the last pictures of him on my camera still. I have not been able to make prints of them (I think because my habit is once I have the picture printed, I delete the picture from the camera, and I do not have the heart to delete the very last pictures of my husband..taken 10 days before he passed). I know this probably makes no sense. I have been thinking recently that I need to get into taking pictures again so that my girls have pictures of their middle and high school..they already do not have any picturs for one year. Hopefuly, I can get myself there.
    Thanks for writting this beautiful piece and with such humor.

  11. Thanks for making all of feel that we aren't alone in our "weird" feelings. It's amazing how you verbalize so well so much of how some of us feel. I am so glad I found this blog.

  12. Thanks for that. In our family my mum is the one who always has the camera out. We always rolled our eyes and complained but when Mike died guess who had all of the amazing pics and videos, mum! Without them we would be so lost. My sister was able to put together a really special slide show for his service. I've now purchased a really good camera and force myself to get it never know what's around the corner.