Monday, October 03, 2005

I Got a Nikon Camera, I Love to Take a Photograph.

Here’s an embarrassing admission: if I were to be diagnosed with some horrible body-ravaging illness which promised to kill me in a week, my first thought would be for my daughter, my second thought would be for Consort, and my third thought would be for my file of unlabeled photographs. And by “File” I mean, of course, “Stained cardboard box brimming with envelopes of pictures and scraps of paper with the words ‘Family Pictures’ written in over the scratched-out word ‘Smirnoff’”.

As with many other supremely ugly things in my life, this began as a sweet idea. From the first day of pre-school, Daughter generated paperwork. She generated quite a bit of paperwork. In a given week, Belgium generates less paperwork than my kid. For the first few weeks, I was carefully putting new stuff on the fridge, rotating out the old stuff, sending the cutest stuff to the grandparents. But as her fine motor control developed, her paperwork increased, while our refrigerator remained the same size, and we didn’t find any new grandparents between the couch cushions. I toyed with wallpapering the living room in just the cat-centric pictures alone.

Clearly, some kind of pruning was in order. I started keeping only one especially fine sample of, say, a drawing of Pilgrims and happy Native Americans breaking bread, and jettisoning the other forty six evocations of the same image. But this meant that when I would go to throw it out in order to create room for “Cat Princess as Sugar Plum Fairy”, I would stare mournfully at the soon-to-be-recycled artwork; it was actually cute. This was what she was doing at a particular time in her life, and I just really wanted to keep a simple record of all she was learning and creating.

That was when the Bad Idea hit me. “Why,” I thought, “I’ll take one representative sample from each month or so and attach a picture of Daughter from that month to it and put them in an album together! It will be adorable! And easy! So very easy!”

To the best of my knowledge, having had five concussions between the ages of eighteen and thirty didn’t affect my judgment. But maybe it did.

Of course it wasn’t easy. This meant that I now had to keep every possible artwork Daughter created, in case it somehow tied in with some picture taken that month. This also meant that I— who could stand two miles away from someone and still manage to cut off their head in a picture — now had to view every event as a potential Photo Op.

I’m the parent at the petting zoo lying prone in a clump of urine-soaked hay in order to get The Shot of Daughter petting a pig which will tie in nicely with the Charlotte’s Web homework from last week. Of course, the camera has a delay, so I end up with three mildly blurry shots of a hand, possibly Daughter’s, reaching out to pet a pig that is now copiously pooping (the poop, of course, is in perfect focus). I’m the mother at someone else’s birthday party leaping over the heads of toddlers in order to get a shot of Daughter having face-paint applied because I thought the green they are using on her eyebrows would tie in nicely with a flower she had painted the week before. The paparazzi who follow the Hilton sisters around would understand this degree of devotion, but they get paid to be horrible. I’m doing this for the obsessive love of a well-organized photo album.

A well-organized photo album, that is, at some point in the future. Right now, as I mentioned, I have a box bulging with pictures only I can explain and pieces of paper only Daughter can read. Just for our collective amusement, I have dragged the “Family Smirnoff” box out and will grab a few pictures at random from it and describe them to you:

Picture #1 - Daughter is…sitting…in…something. A car, perhaps? No, wait…It’s an airplane. When we went to the kid’s museum this summer, they had a half of a real airplane in which the kids could frolic. But, of course, I didn’t think to frame the picture so you could actually see she was sitting in the pilot’s seat of a real airplane so she appears to be driving a mini-van. I must have felt this image really tied in with some drawing she did, as I took five virtually identical pictures. And what’s that in the corner of each one? Oh, yes, it’s my finger.

Picture #2 - Kid’s music event, where Daughter got up and danced. That’s a sweet shot. Or rather, it would be, if she were in the picture. There are twenty-five children in this picture, and I am not related to any of them. Refreshingly, I have not cut off any of their heads; in fact, I have left so much space above their heads it looks as if the kids should suddenly erupt into “We represent the Lollipop League, the Lollipop League…”.

Picture #3 - Daughter and two dear friends, looking at a wild bat. Sounds good, right? Let me clarify. Daughter is one-quarter of a head facing away from me on the bottom of the frame. The two boys are staring, in profile, at the hands of a bat expert, who is holding the apricot-sized bat in a cloth, to keep it safe from prying hands. This means the boys appear enthralled by a soiled dinner napkin. What I really got most clearly in this picture is a boy facing me in a white trucker hat and a white t-shirt which reads “Vote for Pedro”. I have no idea who this boy is. I have four more pictures of these same kids fixating on a dinner napkin from different angles, because I knew I had a winner here.

Picture #4 - Night time walking tour we took as a family. Here is the woman giving the lecture, pointing at something. Here is everyone looking at what she is pointing at. Here is me, at the back of the group, getting a picture of the back of everyone’s head. You know, I actually took this job on willingly; it only appears I became family photographer because I lost a bet. Or more accurately, the family lost a bet.

Actually, I know why I take the pictures. If Consort takes the pictures, Consort eventually takes a picture of me. Sometimes, Consort decides to take a candid snapshot of me when I am unaware of it. Then, I go to pick up the printed pictures and unexpectedly come face-to-face with how I actually look.

And none of us need that.

6 Comments:

Blogger needadayoff said...

I have been trying to have a "photoday" since last February when I noticed that the lid on my picture basket wouldn't close. It hasnt happened yet. When our first son arrived I took pix of him about every 12 seconds. The second son about every 12 months and the third son~~well I do have a few school pictures of him. The poor kid will need years of therapy.

4:21 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks, now I'm musically asking Mabelline why she can't be true. Please don't take my Kodachrome away!

11:49 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Dear Stalker,
Please stop writing about my life. You've apparently been going through my storage room and I do not appreciate it. Cease and desist.

Thank you very much.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Sage Tyrtle said...

Okay, dammit, stop that. The only free time I have is in the morning before my son wakes up, and after reading this entry I have the HICCUPS and now he's going to wake up.

4:10 AM  
Anonymous heather said...

Since I just watched it again, I wanted to inform you that it's the Lollipop Guild, and the Lullaby League. I just know that information is going to make a difference in your life. As for me, I've taken a picture of my 11 month old daughter every day of her life (ok, so one night it was JUST after midnight when I remembered--she'll never know). The beauty of this is that it's all digital, so I'll upload a picture from each day into some website and get them to make an album for each month of her precious first year. It's clearly clear that I have only one child...

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

About 6-12 months ago, in an excess of organizational fervor, I bought some photo-sized boxes, sorted through the large box of photos of daughter from birth to age 13 (not surprisingly the number of photos in a given year is in inverse proportion to her age), culled the duplicate photos, threw away most of the negatives (old school, I know, and no particular rhyme or reason for holding on to some of them), organized the photos in roughly chronological order, and marked the little divider tabs by date. I now have 3 shoe-box sized boxes of relatively organized photos. But before you applaud and bow at my feet in awe, you should know that I also have a foot-plus stack of duplicates to go through so I can pick the cutest, organize them in photo albums, then send the rest to the round file (best not to contemplate what I could have done with the money represented by the discards). Plus I have piles of duplicate photos of daughter with her friends that I plan to mail to the friends' moms. Someday. Preferably before the kids finish high school (almost 5 years - what odds will you give me?). And of course, just as I got finished with the little divider tabs, I discovered another large box of photos that have to be given the same treatment. Someday. If I live that long, and have nothing else to do during retirement.

8:16 PM  

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