| LifeTakes |

Picture This   

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t catch my toddler on the slide while simultaneously snapping a picture

When I was in seminary, turning the wall next to your bed into a photo collage was the thing to do.

And every single girl, from Brooklyn to Boise, came prepared.

Except me, that is. Even back then, at 17, I wasn’t a picture person. Photos never meant much to me. I didn’t bring along a single photo.

The girls around me took pride in their collages and fussed over each other’s pictures. I didn’t think it would bother me, but I soon became self-conscious about my conspicuously bare walls. I felt I ought to put up something.

It was easy enough to remedy. When my family came to Israel for Succos, I snapped a whole bunch of pictures. I made a point to bring a camera along whenever I got together with my high school friends.

This was before digital cameras had hit the market. I took the film to be developed somewhere in Geula, and by mid-October I had a shiny stack of photos to hang up. Armed with scotch tape, I was ready to plan my photo collage wall. But very soon, while still in the planning stage, I abandoned the project. The whole thing felt forced, disingenuous even. I settled on tacking up one family picture and one friends picture, so my roommates wouldn’t think I was part of the witness protection program.

My disinterest in pictures wasn’t only a teen stage. It followed me into motherhood. I saw a cute meme recently: “I’m old enough to remember going through an entire day without taking a single picture.” I sent it to my mother, from whom I likely inherited my photo impassivity. While my friends are old enough to remember that, they probably wouldn’t relate.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t catch my toddler on the slide while simultaneously snapping a picture. At my children’s school plays, I always ask the woman next to me to send me the video she’s taking with her phone. I text her my email address, then sit back and enjoy the show.

I do take some pictures: Baby’s first bite of food and six-year-olds clutching their first siddurim, but just one or two. I view it as a “have-to,” like making lunches or planning mishloach manos. Not entirely unpleasant, but a chore nonetheless. I’ve long considered professional pictures on par with a homemade birthday cake. Cute, but no one needs it.

It sounds like I’m not sentimental. But I am, I really am. I save birthday cards. I journal milestones and cute stories of my children. I borrowed my great-grandmother’s pearl earrings from my aunt and wore them to my wedding. Just for sentiment’s sake.

My neighbor doesn’t know I’m not a picture person. She texted me one Motzaei Shabbos. Her coworker was taking a photography course and was looking to take pictures of a family at a steeply discounted rate. Would I be interested?

I was neutral, but my husband was interested. It was all set up. We just had to meet her Sunday afternoon at Brookdale Park. That much I could do.

It was a cloudy but warm fall day. (The photographer said we got lucky — cloudy is the best weather for pictures. Who knew?) The kids looked scrumptious in their coordinating outfits. They proudly sat together on a bench, the orange trees behind them, framing them beautifully. They sat on steps, held hands, played with leaves, and the young photographer snapped away.

My husband and I watched. I thought of the suppers that they eat or don’t eat, the never-ending homework, the time they put every toy we own into bags and played store. Now, from a few feet away, I saw it all through the perfect soft-focus lens.

Watching them with their arms around each other, it would be hard to guess that they fought in the car on the way to the park. You can’t tell the boys are in borrowed shirts. My daughter looks fresh-faced and mature. My boys grin impishly; I smile back.

All the photographer sees is a cooperative little bunch — cute as anything. Pictures don’t tell the whole story, but I know this “picture-perfect” perspective is also true.

I’m excited about these pictures. I want to capture and keep this moment. To gaze at it when I’ve been up all night with the baby and wake up to find Clics inside the kettle.

While I’m still not a picture person, I want a picture of this.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 798)

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