When Santa came to visit my house for Christmas in 1984, he gifted me a Fisher-Price Kids Kodak 110 Film blue camera. It was the second-best Santa gift I ever received next to the “Pretty In Pink” Barbie from 1981. My camera came with a cartridge of eight flashbulbs to use indoors. I fancied myself a photographer while posing my Barbies, my cats, and my favorite Raggedy Ann doll around our backyard. Soon after the first set of prints were picked up from the film developer, my mom bought me my first scrapbook.
I meticulously kept scrapbooks from 1984 to 1999. I still have and love them all. They are filled with photos, greeting cards, certificates, love notes, and ticket stubs from along my life’s journey. With the advent of cell phones and too many photos to manage, my scrapbooking days were near over until the advent of the craft of scrapbooking. From 2000 to 2004, I was an avid scrapbook hobbyist with a great group of girlfriends. We would spend hours on the weekends pouring our hearts into making our family memories come to life. Once my babies came into the world, my hobby faded, but my love of photographs and memory keeping did not.
It is no surprise that my house is filled with framed photos of my family and dearest friends. I have an entire wall with twelve 11×17 frames that I rotate photos in and out bi-monthly. I have a long-held habit of taking a photo a day of something that brings joy or gratitude to my life. I love spending hours making photo books from Shutterfly for my daughters and family.
When I found myself in a house filled with family photos after my spouse moved out, I was not only reminded of the better times that had once been, but of what I perceived at that time as my biggest life failure. It felt wrong and disruptive to my children to take the photos down – so they stayed on the walls and shelves while I sat in my paralysis of being unsure what to do.
I was relieved when I finally sold our marital home, and the pictures came down and the memories stored up in that house became remote. Once in our new home, it was a touch of synchronicity tapping me on the shoulder when a local photographer wanted to take a family photo of me for a display at the airport for Women Community Leaders. It was our first family photo with just the three of us – instead of four.
I was filled with emotion that day in front of the camera. Nervous, unsure, excited, happy, and determined. This family photo session felt different. My girls were excited and if it occurred to them that their dad wasn’t there for the family picture – I will never know.
It was a defining moment for me as a divorced mom. I felt empowered by officially being seen as a family – me, Anna, and Sophia. It was then that I began the process of forgiving myself for my mental berating for being a bad mom. I had not ruined our family – I had redefined it. All of the essential elements of family were as intact as ever – unconditional love, support, and trust. When I later saw our family portrait on display at the airport, I was reminded that we were whole and for us our picture was perfect.