During an in home storytelling photography session, I recently got to spend a day with Bonnie and her girls. She is one of those people you not only will have a great time with, but she also is a person you can truly count on, and who will always tell you like it is. She is one of those women who somehow is always on top of things, and makes it all look so easy, including raising three beautiful daughters. On this particular snowy Saturday, her oldest daughter had the idea to try out a new cupcake recipe with her sisters. I got to follow them around with my camera, as they baked, ate, read books, played cards, and enjoyed each other’s company.
In the spring, I accompanied my daughter’s kindergarten class to the MACM, and was lucky enough to see the exhibit featuring Sophie Calle’s exhibition Pour la dernière et pour la première fois (For the Last and First Time). While a group of 5-6 year olds don’t leave much time for savouring, I found it to be one of the most moving exhibitions I have ever seen. It was Voir la mer that inspired the series I am sharing with you today.
Up until this past July, neither of my girls had any memory of the ocean. Our last beach vacation had been when my older daughter was one, and I was pregnant with my youngest, so knew I wanted to capture their experience. What I did not realize was how difficult it would be to capture this, these first moments, and hours, through tears, and through chest-bursting joy.
We had just driven two days, had dropped off our bags at our condo, and immediately walked back out, down the walkway, to the beach.
What I will remember:
The way our girls’ faces changed at their first ocean view
Their unbelievable squeals of delight upon feeling the warm ocean water
Eloïse, momentarily pausing in the excitement of it all, and asking me to remind her, how many days would we be able to be here, again?
Ben’s face, witnessing it all
I may not be in these images, but I am in these photographs. You can find me in the brief instants I chose to freeze in time.
From that first email inquiry, I knew this session was going to be awesome. Something about Kerry was familiar to me, I really felt a connection with her. As a result, I think we both walked in trusting each other, and there was an ease to all of it. The session was so calm and effortless, and it was great to just follow this dynamic family around for a couple of hours to document their final days in their first home, right before they moved. I have been holding out on blogging this session for a long while, because it is one that is really close to my heart, and I somehow felt I wanted to do it proper justice. I came to the conclusion that the photos speak for themselves.
Kerry, & Yan, thank you for letting me come into your home and to really captured you and your boys, in a natural and honest way. You may not realize it, but your session was a turning point for me, and it set the standard to what I aim to accomplish with all sessions moving forward. Real, honest, love, simply captured.
Change is good, change is hard. Right now, though, my heart feels heavy, and it just feels hard.
Today, you started kindergarten. You seemed nervous, but stayed brave, and through your example, I stayed brave, too. I am missing you right now, and I suspect that feeling will not go away anytime soon. I miss you seeing you cuddling with our cat on your bed, playing with your Littlest Pet Shop, explaining your scientific theories to me in your Jersey accent. I miss my sidekick. At the back-to-school parents’ party at friends’ home right after dropping you off at school, for a brief instant, I had the feeling you had been out of my sight just a little too long, and had the instinct to go look for you, until I realized you weren’t with me at all. Change is good. Change is hard.
Eloïse, I am so proud of you. You and your sister are the greatest joys of my life, and nothing I can say will encompass all that you have enabled me to experience. I have no doubt you will love school, have lots of fun, learn interesting things, and make wonderful friends. I am so thrilled for you to have reached this very important milestone, and I look forward to watching you experience all the wonderful things that will come of it.
Sisi, you are so smart, kind-hearted, funny, and loyal. Always remember that about yourself, and surround yourself with friends who will remind you if you ever forget. I believe you are one of the purest souls I will ever meet, not in a naïve way, but rather, in an honest one. You are true, through and through, and it is the greatest honour to be your mother.
The day we brought you home from the hospital, I was overcome with love and fear and fatigue. Today, a little over five years later, these same emotions rise up in me again.
Those first few weeks of having you with us involved getting used to an entirely new routine for us, your parents, and especially to savoring every little bit of you. We got to learn your little cries, relish the scent of the top of your head, your sweet baby breath, and all those little bits of you that continue to grow and change every single day.
We watched you as you reached those developmental milestones- rolling over, sitting up, babbling, eating solids, first words, first string of words- that all parents boast about with new babies, but secretly are relieved about, because they provide proof that “everything is ok”. You made that first year so easy because you were always happy, smiling. You were the kind of baby you could bring everywhere, and I am forever grateful that it was you that introduced me to this whole parenting thing.
Soon, you became a big sister, and while some days were hard, in the end, that little person that arrived just 23 months after you has become your best friend. I hope that you always love each other, even when you argue, as much as you do now.
When you started preschool, it was hard to watch as you struggled in a new environment. A lot of your challenges were simply around a second language issue. While you think you want your kids to be the best, the smartest, the most talented, the most liked, but as parents, you quickly realize that you just want them to be happy and to believe in themselves.
Today, we sent you off to kindergarten. Just like on that first day, I am so fearful for you alone in that great big world out there. Five years ago my fear had so much to do with how much you would be relying on me to show you the way, and today, today my fear is that I simply cannot be beside you every moment. I know you are going to a good place, that you will be well-surrounded. But still.
I want you to know how much I have appreciated these last five years with you. That I really have had the best opportunity I could have ever hoped for. I am grateful for having been able to let you sleep in, to have been able to watch you sleep in, all the meals we have eaten together, the adventures we have been on, seeing your face when you look out at the first snow storm of the year, the ice cream cones we have shared, the baths I have supervised, the pom-pom animals we have made, and even the park visits, as you learned to slide, to swing, to climb, and to run. I have celebrated all your accomplishments, and will continue to do so, with as much encouragement and joy as ever. I hope I have given you the best tools I could, that you know that we believe in you. I will not deny there have been some days when I have found it hard to be in this role of “Mama”, yes, but there is nothing more worthwhile than this. You have made me a better person, a grownup, a better artist, a lover of simple things, more humble, less judgemental. You have reminded of the beauty of imagination, of a good laugh, forgiveness. I cannot imagine my life without you.
I am so proud of the amazing little girl you are. I love your wit, intelligence, sense of humor, and incredibly kind and gentle nature. You are the best daughter anyone could ever hope for, the most amazing big sister, and just an amazing person.
Have an awesome first day. Be your best. I will be waiting for you at the schoolyard gate.