Parenthood is always a bit of a balance between utter chaos and quiet profundity. Sometimes both at once.
If we let him, Jason would put his entire room into his bed before going to sleep--he'd fall asleep on top of a giant pile of books and toys, which he would then proceed to kick onto the floor over the course of the night. It's looking like Eva will be the same way.
Lifting your daughter over your head and listening to the sound of her laughter, then ignoring the fact that your arms are tired when your son asks for a turn, because it's fair, and anyway it's worth it to hear him laugh, too.
Sending your son to "time out" because he threw a ball at your face, even though you had just told him not to; listening to him scream about not wanting to, but not giving in; ending the whole thing with an explanation and a hug; and knowing that, even though he'll do it again, he means it when he says he won't.
Getting choked up at the card your son "wrote" for you, even though in it he says that you're 12 years older than you are and makes a big deal about how much you like to eat beans.
Taking a moment to marvel at how tiny and adorable your daughter's feet are--even though they are so much bigger than they were just a few months ago--then having your reverie interrupted by noticing that her toenails are getting long and wondering whether to go get the clippers or just bite them.
Ultimately, a difficult thing to summarize or quantify, and maybe the most important thing you've ever done.
I imagine that a lot of people, when they look at these photos (I flatter myself that a lot of people look at them), think that I'm telling my kids' stories. The thing is, even as young as they are, there's too much about their internal life that is hidden for me to ever be able to tell their stories.
No, the only story I can really tell is my own. My own narrative for my life intersects theirs, maybe it runs alongside for a while, but they're not the same. Some day they may look back at these pictures (I hope they do) and see something they recognize, but what it means to them will be different from what it means to me. If I'm a good enough photographer, though, maybe seeing themselves the way I saw them will help them see me the way I see myself. I suppose, ultimately, that's the reason behind everything I do.
Nobody tells you this--or maybe it's just me--but on that first day, the day when you meet your baby for the first time and she meets, well, everything for the first time. On that day, you don't know her, not yet. She's a stranger. But little by little you get to know her, you get to know every little thing about her, like what her ears smell like and how her cry is different when she's afraid and when she's outraged. And then one day you look at her and you realize that you love her, so much that you have to stop yourself from constantly talking about her IN ALL CAPS, so much that just the sight of her inquisitive little face makes your chest hurt. And you've been loving her for a long time now but it snuck up on you, so you didn't notice it happening when it was happening, but BANG, here it is now. Nobody tells you this, but there it is.
I mentioned that my camera is kind of busted--well, my first reaction upon seeing this frame was annoyance, followed by chagrin. You can get enough of a sense of what each individual capture looked like to tell that both of them would have been keepers for this particular assignment, and knowing that I'd lost them to a camera error both frustrated me and made me sad. As the days go by, though, I find that the result of that error is really sticking in my mind.
I'm not usually one for camera tricks, and multiple exposures are usually one of the first things that you play with as a budding photography student--certainly my friends and I all did, back in high school. Moreover, I tend to view art as something purposeful, and the accidental nature of this image's genesis is the sort of thing that makes me think it's a throwaway.
And yet, I can't stop thinking about it.
There's just something about the chaos of it all, the happenstance. The way things come together at odd angles, and the way that the little gestures of each individual exposure come through on their own while still seeming to contribute to the resultant whole. I find it compelling.
Maybe I'm reaching, but I think there's something there.
It's going to happen soon. She's going to be crawling, maybe even before my birthday.
When she was newly born and she was so quiet and easy-going, I worried that perhaps she wouldn't be motivated enough to get around on her own. Maybe she would be one of those happy little lumps that always made us say (after we'd left the party) "You know, Jason may be kind of a handful, but I'm glad to have a kid that's at least interesting." (I know, we were assholes. Some of us still are.1)
But, no, Eva's got spark. She wants to get around. When I got home from work today I saw that she had pushed herself backwards into a corner and gotten stuck; as soon as she saw me--but not before--she cried for help. And every little thing that catches her attention, she wants it. She's not content and boring. No, this one is motivated.
I'm so happy to know that it runs in the family.
1 I mean me, of course. No one who has met both of us would ever be confused about that.
The shutter on my medium format camera (a Bronica ETRS) sticks sometimes. Fortunately, there's a little indicator light in the viewfinder that blinks when the shutter has properly actuated, and when it doesn't blink I just flip the double exposure switch and reshoot the same frame. Unfortunately, when I don't see the blinking light I'm never sure whether it didn't actually blink or if I just missed it. So I end up with a lot of unintentional double (or triple or quadruple) exposures. This one just happened to work out well.
Waiting For a Table
"You know, one thing that I don't love about a lot of the pictures you've been taking of Eva is that she's got her pacifier in her mouth in almost every one."
"Well, yeah. She has it in her mouth in the pictures because that's what she looks like right now. She just has it in most of the time."
"Maybe we need to work on that."
"Yeah, I guess we do."