My Family Portrait

Last summer, my family and I spent four days together to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. As a family of seven, we didn’t take a lot of vacations, so now, when we gather as adults, it feels extra special. We stayed at a beautiful farm that also had an inn, animals, and grounds for walking. We swam in the pool, ate delicious food, and entertained each other with jokes, music, dancing, and late-night chats.

I considered hiring a photographer for the occasion but didn’t because I figured I could do it myself. Side note to my fellow photographers: Hire a professional photographer for all important life events. You deserve to be taken care of just like everyone else. Clock out, this gig’s not for you.

When we gathered for our big, celebratory dinner, I felt a heavy responsibility to capture the moment. I wanted to hold the joy and affection, preserve the love and the laughter. When would all 19 of us be together again? Such moments seem like snowflakes that melt on your warm hands as you hopefully try to hold them for an instant of breathless admiration. I felt the tension between wanting to be in the present and wanting to document the present.

Decor and food from an anniversary celebration.

Photos of details from a 50 year anniversary party.


Now, the question of when we might all be together again has been imbued with deep uncertainty. More than a matter of lining up schedules, making time, and booking travel, the global pandemic has introduced layers of complications and questions that I can’t bring myself to put into words.

So, we shelter in place. Aware of our profound responsibility to keep our friends and neighbors safe, we demonstrate love by not gathering.

When it became clear that we might be safer at home for at least a month, I decided to order a copy of the anniversary album I made for my parents.

Custom photo album of a reunion family weekend

Flipping through the book, I pause at the group shot that caused me so much stress. The love and the laughter inside of me rise up in resonance with the emotions captured at that moment.

Family portrait for 50th anniversary party

As I turn the pages, I’m transported. I smile at the raucous antics of the kids doing flips into the pool, the quiet love-testament of my parents walking hand-in-hand, and the beautiful weather we had in happy defiance of daily forecasts for rain. I knew I would treasure these photos, but couldn’t have possibly understood how much sustenance I would draw from them. They are feeding my soul, which is hungry for connection.

Looking through a family album

If there’s anything this time of stillness has given me, it’s a deeper gratitude for the simple things in life and the people I cherish. Almost daily, I’ve been pulling out old photos and immersing myself in memories, fortified by the shared stories that make up so much of who I am.

Candid photos from a family reunion

I’ve become inspired to surround myself with these photos and am planning to fill the empty walls in my home with happy memories. I know we’ll get through this, but hanging these photos helps me feel it, viscerally, and reminds me that even separated by six feet or more, we are still connected. We have plenty more memories to create together, and that time will come.

Next time though, I’ve promised myself that I will be more present. If the occasion warrants it, I’ll bring in a trusted professional to document our joy. Or, I’ll share the responsibility of capturing our stories with the people I love. Either way, I’ll soak up every moment like a thirsty sponge, because now I’m sure of this — the thing we know for certain is what we have in the present.

Cherishing the memories of a family weekend
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