I have four children, but as I look at photos one seems to be missing!
There is the first, my eldest daughter. She is the one with a photo album for every month of her first year of life. There are photos of her moments after birth, going home, crying, smiling, getting a bath, sitting up and walking. Every possible milestone marked and photographed.
Not only do we have many photo albums of her we also have a “Babys memory book”. This is all filled in, recording her birth weight and subsequent weights. Date she smiled, walked and all manner of other things. There is even a list of who gave what present for her christening, and who her friends were in school.
In a drawer there is her coming home from hospital outfit, and first shoes and other little momentos.
Next came our son. He too was well photographed and his life recorded. The beautiful little memory book was bought for him and mostly filled out, but maybe not as well as for my eldest. Small momentoes of his baby days were also carefully put away.
Then along came my third child. However life became very busy then, and it would appear that photo opportunities lessened. I know she came home from hospital, as she has spent sixteen years living here, but there is no evidence to support that. I also know she sat up, and crawled and walked, but again I have no proof. She must have had baby clothes and first shoes, but they seem to be missing. I don’t think we even bought a “Baby memory book”.
I do remember as she was growing up realising I was not taking the same interest in her development. On occasions I would look at my husband or children and say, “When did she start doing that?”.
My complete lack of my knowledge of this little lady was really highlighted one evening. It was bedtime and she was sitting on my lap listening to a story. She was about five at the time. As I began to read she said “I’ll read you a story tonight”. I agreed and she ran off to get a book. On return she had a book for a slightly older child. I smiled and imagined the makey up story she was going to read me. Then she opened it up and read it perfectly. No hesitation, no struggling over words. I was stunned. She had only just started school.
After that I tried to wake up and take notice. But life was very busy and if I am honest I acted more as a supervisor, cook and taxi, than a mother. The main focus of my mothering was changing nappies, giving out drinks, and carrying crying babies. No time for photography. As long as all in my care were fed and playing without killing each other then I was happy.
Then we made the decision to have one final child. This was to be my last pregnancy. So we went with a homebirth. Well we had to have photos of that, and of the arrival of everyone to see her, and almost every other milestone she reached. As the years have passed we have continued to enjoy her “moments”. When she began school it was not so much her first day, but our last day of first days. And so it has continued. We have a wonderful collection of “first” for her to remember, and poignant reminders of “last” for us.
Today I went for a walk with my friend and she showed me a beautiful book. It was a book of photographs of her son who passed away this day twelve weeks ago. His primary school had put it together for his family. As I looked at it, feeling both joy at the amazing photos of a young boy really enjoying life, and physical pain at his loss, I thought of my own family, the photos I have taken over the years, and more importantly all those not taken.
And I made a firm decision.
From this day on I will make a huge effort to record life as it unfolds, regardless of the co operation I receive from my children. Because the day will come when hopefully all my children are adults and these photos will be as precious as gold.
Now where’s my camera?