We watched a slideshow of old photographs for Lila’s birthday. Pixelated, not entirely crisp or even well-seen pictures, all blown up for closer inspection on our big screen television. Close-ups of messy Popsicles in the fists of toddlers, boring pictures of kids perched atop park slides, so (so, so, so) many pictures of over-blown or oddly-cropped (artistically centered?) bare baby feet.
The photographer in me cringed.
The mother in me…she couldn’t stop smiling, reliving each small moment, remembering what our life was, seven or eight years ago, in the trailer park with our children all under the age of five and not enough money in the bank to make ends meet.
I remembered how I would follow my little ones around with my point and shoot, for no other reason than to express my love, in photographic form.
I remembered scrambling, everyday, the two of us, Vinnie and I.
Seeing the pictures flashed me back to days of pacing the kitchen, working overnights at a hotel front desk, stirring pots of generic macaroni and cheese noodles on my stove top, and taking home a box of holiday food donated to our church from the food bank. It had a bag of red and green M&M’s, and I remember how the simplicity of that bag of chocolates, a gift, made me feel so incredibly grateful.
I remember the outtakes of our life – the low points – the small moments, the ones that could otherwise be lost to the shadowed corners of other, more brilliant, memories.
And I know that they are more truthful than all of the rest.
They’re the true art of life.
I’m frantically editing this week, and came across a family session where the children were too excited to hold still and the entire lot of images are nearly all, what I would normally consider, outtakes. There was not a single perfect picture – not one moment where the entire family managed to hold still and say cheese and look like that Pinterest Christmas card we all hope for.
It was my favorite session I edited that day.
As I clicked through the images, I remembered the laughter, the tickling, the parents best attempts to make their children smile nicely. I remembered the energy, the small bodies in brand new fall attire, sprinting off toward the sunset. It’s the only session from that day of shooting, where I knew that I was catching a glimpse of truth.
Here, here is your family, as you are, really.
We are all striving for the best – we all make attempts to be our best, even if for just long enough for a shutter to click – but the best things I’ve seen through my lens, are the moments when we fall just shy of perfection. When we are inadvertently, the art of life in motion.
I want my children to know that it’s important to set goals and to run full speed ahead, arms flailing, heart pounding, toward their passion…but I also want them to grow up knowing that the moments they’re stepping through, are just as important as the big moment they’re striving toward.
I hope that they fail – that they one day have the equivalent of my slideshow of terrible pictures, or the box of unpublished stories or poems – I hope that they know that failures are brushstrokes in the artwork of their life, but the bigger picture remains.
I hope that they one day have wriggling children who won’t sit still for family portraits and who inspire them to chase after their own dreams, even harder.
Because that’s what they’ve done for me.
Most of the messes in my life – the state of my minivan floor, the gold glitter and the fine layer of never-ending silt over my staircases, the stains on rugs and the hand prints on my walls – they are directly related to my children.
But, most of my the successes – the moments where I’ve felt accomplished or proud or in any way pleased with whatever small thing I’ve managed to do that resembles art in my life – they are directly related to my children, too.
And for all of it, I am grateful.
Outtakes and all.