When I was six years old, my family spent some time staying in a cabin in a particular canyon near my current home. We were visiting from England. I have few recollections of the cabin excursion, except my dad, quite an avid photographer when he was younger, setting up a shot. You know those touristy shots, where a person is attempting to look as though they are “holding up” the Washington Monument, or Big Ben, or… an evergreen tree in a small Utah canyon?
This photo set up was in the days before digital cameras. There was no checking the camera screen to see if the photo was captured as he would like. It was more than likely a good 3-6 weeks, once we returned back home to England, before he ever saw the results of that amateur photo shoot.
Turns out the photo did the job, and we now have a great photo of my brother “holding” a tree in the palm of his hand.
Almost 35 years after that photo shoot, my husband and I drove through the winding canyon roads with five children in the back of our Suburban. We had just enjoyed a few days’ vacation as a family at a nearby lake, and our abundance of time together was beginning to be felt by each family member. We were anxious to return home, and seven people cooped up inside a Suburban was not the most pleasant of circumstances.
The mother in me felt frustrated by the bickering coming from the back seats. I felt disappointed that five days of a pretty wonderful vacation were being finalized with arguments of who was touching who, who smelled, who was making annoying sounds, and the like.
I decided to tune my children out (maybe turning on the DVD player inside our car helped?) and pay closer attention to the beauty of the drive. My mind was carried away by the colors. The bright blue sky contrasted by the thick green of trees settled into my weary mother mind. I found myself thinking of my dad capturing his desired photo.
At the time of my dad’s photo attempt, his home was 6000 miles away from those thick evergreen trees. Had the photo not turned out, it was unlikely he would ever be able to recreate it in the same location again. I remember the excitement when that photo came back after being developed. My brother was holding up a tree! I remember my Grandad, having never laid eyes on a Utah mountain, smiled at the skilled photo.
No one talked about what frustrations or time it took to take the photo. I recall no criticisms of what wasn’t quite right, or what could have been better. Maybe my dad’s photo didn’t quite secure all the things he hoped it would. But as far as I know, he captured the picture he wanted, and he never looked back.
As the noises from the backseat of the Suburban lessened (note: I didn’t say stopped) as five sets of childhood eyes focused on a small screen hanging from a Suburban ceiling, I realized my current life was the same as my dad’s photo attempt.
I’m raising a family, much the way a photo was taken years ago.
There’s pretty much one attempt.
There is no screen to instantly check my efforts. No guarantees that it will all work out the way I hope, until years down the road. But what I do know is we’re making memories. I’m raising my family much the same way my dad took that picture… with effort, some skill, lots of patience, and the hope of a desired end result.
I’m encouraged that what I will see, when I one day look at my “developed photo,” will cause me to smile.
Our Suburban carrying seven passengers was almost completely quiet as the drive through the canyon was coming to an end. I took one last look around me at the beautiful trees. They signified something grand and strong to me. Perhaps some of those trees I noticed last summer are the same trees we stood by in 1981 securing a photo–symbols of strength and endurance. If they could speak to me, it would be encouraging and I think they would tell me, my photo will turn out just fine.