“Oh today, I finally overcame
Tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame”
The morning always seems to come rushing in. It almost doesn’t matter what time I finally let the night take me away, the pale yellow of sunrise seems to filter in just moments later.
The sounds of waking children filter through the monitors early, giving me time to snuggle up for just a few more minutes. The calm before the storm.
Riley almost always appears first, ready to embrace the day.
I hear her making her way down the hallway, pausing for a moment outside of Liam’s room to listen for him. Concluding that he’s still asleep (he’s not), she tiptoes into out room and crawls into my arms to cozy up to me for a moment.
We whisper about dreams, plans for the day, and breakfast. We savor a few moments of Mommy and me chitchat before Liam arrives, bounding in with enormous energy that wakes Sean and gets the day started.
Day after day, we follow the same routine. Some days she’s quiet, contemplating the day ahead. Other days, she’s full of ideas – ready to take on anything.
On this day, she craves family time.
“Mommy, I have the perfect plan. We should go to the zoo! We can see trucks on the way for Liam and animals and have a picnic!”
The thought of getting everyone up and out early enough to enjoy the zoo before Liam crashes overwhelms me for a moment, but it’s nearly impossible to say no to a face full of excitement and wonder.
“I’ll pack my backpack with everything we need!”
Sean agrees to the plan before I can even object and the next thing I know we are cooking, eating, and getting dressed.
She works carefully, packing her version of essentials: Band Aids (Cars for him, fairies for her), books, binoculars, and loveys. Liam trails her, adding his own essentials along the way.
With sweatshirts and shoes and a well-packed lunchbox, we take one last look around to make sure that we have everything we need.
Standing side-by-side at the kitchen counter, Sean and I stare at the camera. Always the picture taker, I leave it within arms reach.
Never miss a moment. Preserve every memory.
Our eyes meet.
“Are you bringing the camera?”
“No, I don’t think so. I just want to enjoy the day.”
And just like that, in a moment, I freed myself from trying to capture every single moment of perfection. I finally chose to walk away from the need to fit our lives inside a picture frame.
I lost my father before I was ready. For years, I stared at pictures in an attempt to connect the memories. I ached to remember every little moment. I looked for clues hidden beneath the smiles.
When my daughter arrived six years ago, I vowed to document everything. I wanted to remember every moment, the big and the small, along the way. For a while, I captured everything. Smiles, milestones, silly moments that should never be forgotten…I kept my camera close at hand so that I wouldn’t miss a moment.
In doing so, I learned a valuable lesson.
Photographs preserve moments. Photographs create a canvas – a place to see what happened. Photographs fill your home with smiles and warmth.
But photographs don’t preserve memories.
Memories can only truly be made when you step away from the lens, when you stop trying to capture the moments.
Memories are preserved in your heart.
When I sit back, in a moment of quiet, close my eyes, and open my heart, only then can I truly access the memories of my father and my childhood. The smell of hot apple cider on a cold autumn day in Connecticut…the feel of the spray from the boat pounding on the waves…the twinkle in his Irish eyes and the smile that never seemed to fade…all of these memories are stored away in my heart – ready to access whenever the moment feels right.
My greatest hope is that my children will grow into kind and empathetic adults with hearts full of memories, and that the memory of my smile will brighten their days just as the memory of my father’s smile brightens mine.