Something's Missing From This Picture

The first Christmas photo after a divorce can be an awkward experience.   It was the first time my ex-husband wouldn’t be in them.  The kids wouldn’t have their dad in the pictures. I was trying to figure out if I even wanted to send Christmas cards out that first year. We went from a full family to missing an important person.  It was another new experience I would have as a single mom. 

Looking back, I actually love those photos.  We looked so happy in them.  Maybe I just like the fact that I looked so young back then.

After years of a tumultuous relationship, it felt good to move on and enjoy peace.  My income at that time, was teeny tiny.  I was finishing up my bachelors degree and putting my life together as a single mom.  My friend and I, along with all our kids, went to the park and took photos of each other.   The photos crack me up now because they were obviously taken by amateurs just when digital cameras first came out.  None the less, they are special to me.

Seventeen years later, there are still people missing from our Christmas photos.  When I remarried, my kids were 8, 10 and 12.  My husband and I have two children together so we have a family of seven.  We have had an amazing fifteen years together.  After five years of marriage, we had to move across the country.  We went as a family, leaving Idaho to venture out to Virginia.  Even though everyone agreed to move, it was during the teen years so unfortunately it was rocky.  One child, the fourteen year old, begged and begged to go back to Boise.  He moved back home to be with his Dad.  So, that year, I had a child missing from our family photos.  That wasn’t the last time that it would happen.

Its one thing to have an ex-husband missing from a family photo (that was sort of a relief) but to have a child missing from a photo was much more emotional.  I didn’t want to take a family photo with someone missing from it.  It didn’t make sense to me.  I still dislike it so much that I would rather wait until we are all together which could be once every two years, than to have someone missing.  I think it’s a mom thing.  I don’t feel complete without all of my kids together.

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Here’s the deal, the thing I’ve had to come to grips with; it’s not about me!  I’m making memories for my kids and if someone is missing, even that is a memory.   Every time we are all together I beg for a family photo to be scheduled.  Every time I say, “this could be the last time we are together in a long time.” I had to tell them, “I don’t ask for hardly anything from you”, in hopes that they will give in.  I am thankful for every family photo we have.  Sometimes we only have four of us, and other times we’ve managed all seven. 

My family has memories that were captured through photography because I didn’t wait until the moment was picture perfect.  Our lives aren’t picture perfect so what we are documenting is real life.