So the goal of the shoot was to get images for Anna and Ella’s birth announcement, my first photo shoot with twins! I was terribly excited the day before the shoot and poured through Google for ideas, is there a “right” way to approach cuteness times two? Could this double dose of adorable cause a lens explosion? I had no idea what to expect.
I knew that the girls had a big brother, age 6, I just wasn’t expecting him to be my muse on this particular shoot. When he finally let me get close enough to him all I could see was the most beautiful set of eyes peering at me through plushie short hand for a hug and a kiss.
His mother, Lynne, assured me that XO was a welcome presence in the pictures since anyone who knows their family knows XO as well. Its actually half of of a whole, there are two soft XO pieces that velcro together to make XOXO. But for Hayden there is a good side of the pair that is loved and worn and the other side doesn’t feel quite as right for some reason. Two items that look the same but most certainly are not… which felt like a bit of a theme that day.
But it got me thinking. There is the person our child needs to be for a short period of time because it helps them to navigate a big world. Then there is the person we, their parents, know they are becoming and we just want others to see it too… which can get us squirrely when a camera comes out. Allow me to explain: our son can’t put on anything that doesn’t have a superhero or superhero symbol on it and it makes my husband (whose job is to think about branding day in and day out) borderline insane. On a recent family getaway to an idyllic location Fiver insisted on wearing a Batman rain jacket everywhere despite the lack of rain. Which meant that in every breath-taking, scenic photograph stood a kid decked out in bat symbols, making a “tough” face, hands balled in fists and ready to battle… no one in particular. Sam was getting frustrated. “Why can’t he just be himself for one day? That stupid jacket is ruining otherwise beautiful pictures.”
There is this teeny-tiny window where a child does something that annoys us profoundly in the moment only to become the very thing we talk about most fondly when childhood has passed. And its often related to some thing: a dolly, “wubby” or blankie that they have difficulty parting with or a ratty piece of clothing they insist on wearing day in and day out. Should this item become lost, washed or otherwise unavailable all hell shall break loose. Over time its story gets told and retold so often that it becomes the stuff of family legend.
A portrait taken in a studio in the 80′s hung in our living room throughout my childhood, the making of which took extreme pleading followed by a bold bribe on the part of my parents in order to successfully extricate “nakey baby” from its inclusion. I recently noticed that this photo was replaced by an enlarged snapshot of us where nakey baby, every bit as naked as her name suggests, dangles at my sister’s pigtailed side.
The reality is that a child won’t need this thing forever. At some point it is cast aside and we pack it in a box and wonder where the little boy or girl went. They do, absolutely, become the person we always knew they were and feared others might not see behind the quirk. And I guess that’s why it melted my heart when Hayden’s parents welcomed XO into the photos, no bribes or conflict, and it actually became a part of things.
And I’m not sure if its because it was welcome or because he was willing anyway, but XO wasn’t actually in most of them. And wow, is Hayden handsome when he let’s you see his face. It was towards the end of the shoot that he placed it, lovingly, with the girls who happened to be wearing red. I couldn’t have planned it better had it been my own idea.
Anna and Ella are indeed absolutely beautiful and thankfully my lens didn’t explode. To be a fly on the wall of this shoot would have been comical as three adults juggled two babies to coax simultaneous naps or waking moments, they refused to do the same thing at the same time, almost as if to assert their individuality. But the craziness really is just part of the wonder right now. I just hope that I am still taking pictures of this group when XO is in a box and each girl has her own version of it to include.
As for me, I am embracing pictures of Batman on a pebbled beach with a bay and lighthouse behind him fighting no one. I know that someday he will be fascinated by the infinite color variations of each unique pebble, that he will pick them up and want to carry them home because he is curious. I know that someday he will love the wind in his face and love its sound as it whips past his ears because he is thoughtful. I know that someday he will look out at the vastness of a body of water and dream about possibilities because part of him is free. Its OK if these things elude him right now. Its OK if he needs costumes to help him sort out the complexity of the world and an iPad once in awhile so that he can rest comfortably inward. He will become who I know he is. I’m not in a hurry.