I've been a wife for more than 19 years and a mom for nearly 17 years. It has been the delight of my life. I'd venture to say that I have millions of photos of the last 20 years. If my house was on fire and I had to pick only three things to save, I'd grab my people, my dogs, and the hard drive that holds all those photos.
Those photos are a breadcrumb trail through life that I've left for myself and I trace that trail back often. I'm in those photos, but in most cases that's thanks to selfies, camera timers, group shots at family holidays, and the ever loving sister-in-law that also knows what it's like to be the photo taker instead of the subject.
Now, this isn't at all a jab at husbands who don't take photos of their wives. The truth is, I've often preferred being behind the camera or in the back row of the group shot. I've never been the girl with perfect make-up, my curly hair is often flowing wild, and my thighs do a weird crinkle thing when I sit. Sometimes I'd rather not have those things documented.
BUT HERE'S THE THING.
When I look back at photos of my own childhood, I wish there were more photos of my mom. Photos where she's not hiding behind children or all fixed up for the church directory photographer. When I think of my mom in those years, I have never once thought that she shouldn't have been in the picture because her hair wasn't perfect. Nope, my only commentary on her hair is that the 80's was quite a decade, she was all in, and I'm so glad there is photographic evidence of it. I don't look back and remember the curve of her waistline, I just remember how cool it was that she climbed that hill to go down the water slide with us over and over again. I don't cringe over her favorite dress that just happened to be an eerie match for the living room wallpaper, I just wish that someone had thought to make her stand in front of that wall like she was a hunter camouflaged in the woods.
She was there, she was a good mom, and I wish there were more photos of her in that season of her life. Being a mom. Being a wife. Being herself.
So last year I asked my husband to take my picture more often. Take my picture when I'm making dumplings in the kitchen with our daughter. Take my picture during birthday parties, camping trips, and pool days. Take my picture before church. Take my picture when I'm not paying attention. Take pictures of me being me.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT?
It's not that he didn't want any photos of me, it's just that his fingers aren't always poised to snap a photo like mine are. But I asked and he now makes the effort.
Sometimes he snaps photos spontaneously.
Sometimes I ask and he obliges.
Sometimes he goes to take a photo, I hesitate, and he reminds me of what I asked for. And I remember why this was important to me in the first place.
Sometimes there are pictures of my rear end or a zoom on my nostril or 73 photos of me making the most unflattering expression ever.
Sometimes the photos remind me that I'm more beautiful than I feel, more important that I realize, and more valued that I know.
Always, those photos are proof that I am here. I am present. I am all in.
I am a wife. I am a mom. I am me. And the photos in the breadcrumb trail we leave behind us? I'm in them.
For more stories about standing happily in the awkward middle of life, love, and parenting, follow Happy Like This by Mandy McCarty Harris.