Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Bookends of Family Photos

Remember when you were just a couple, it was just the two of you, before kids? All of those photographs of you together, just the two of you? When everywhere you went you had a stranger snap a shot of the two of you smiling, some exciting location in the background, looking happy and in love. When the world revolved around the two of you and everything was ahead of you, and you were going to take it all on together. Leaning in for photos, holding up wine glasses and beer bottles, sunsets and romantic dinners, vacations to exotic destinations. Remember those days?

Yeah, me either. I have the pictures to prove it though. We had seven years of marriage before Nolan came along. Certainly it wasn't all a golden age, but we were always the center of our own little world. Today that center has shifted and two loudmouthed little boys have taken over.

Today the pictures are all of them. Sometimes one of us is in the photo, and very rarely a family shot, that miracle of all miracles where everyone is looking at the camera. Rare because now, asking a stranger to take a family photo is like asking them to take on a major feat of photographic skill likely far beyond their abilities. Even professionals struggle for that elusive family portrait where no one is picking their nose. So it's pictures of the kids.

But us? The couple who fell in love and decided to make this little family? They're nowhere to be seen in the photos today. It's like we disappeared from the record, slipped into the photographic Bermuda Triangle.

Why? I guess because the kids are cuter, more interesting, and ever-changing where as we are much the same with the exception of more wrinkles, more grey hairs, more dark circles under our eyes. The photographic record of our relationship morphed into a timeline of our children's lives. I love those photos, every one of them. Of course I do. But sometimes I miss the photos of us. I sometimes wish our online photo galleries showed more often that although our marriage is not the self-centered enterprise it once was, we are still two people who love each other. That although the kids now come first and we, as people and as a couple, come second, we are still the dynamic duo who have hung in there through every challenge and still dedicate our hearts to each other.

We're behind the scenes now. Behind the lens. Waving from behind the camera to draw out those adorable little smiles, to get them both to look in the same direction at once. Our appearances in front of the camera are almost all with the kids. It's ok. We're still us. We'd rather look at pictures of our kids anyway, and so would most people who know us. Rightly so.

One day, they'll move away and there will be photos of us again. A leap forward in time. More wrinkles, more greys. Photos of a couple so changed from where we began. The photos of us, the couple, will bookend the years in which we dedicated everything to our boys. Young and in love. Older and hopefully still in love. Before and after, with a whole life lived in between.

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