I found this picture in a drawer this week. The other pictures from this vacation are all in a photo album. It was one of the last times I actually printed off pictures and put them in an album. Now most of my pictures live on jump drives and in folders on my computer. This picture didn’t get placed with the others in the album because it was a reject. Like in the olden days of the 1990s. When the photographer gave me my senior picture proofs in a leather tri-fold album for my parents to view. Behind the album in the box was an envelope of all the ones where my eyes were closed.
I remember this beach picture and the day, now more than 10 years ago, with crystal clarity. It was chilly, rainy and windy. We had exhausted all of our indoor options of shopping, watching a movie and getting lunch. The rain cleared for a few minutes so we hurriedly threw towels and toys in a beach bag, changed into swimsuits and darted out to the beach for the short time we had before more rain moved in.
I wanted a picture of all of us on the beach. It’s obligatory. It doesn’t matter if none of us were in the mood or not. When the family is all on the beach and your daughter is in a cute ruffle bottom pink swimsuit you take a picture.
We were wet and cold. My daughter kept complaining that her hair was blowing in her mouth. My son had peanut butter with sand smashed in it stuck all over his little fingers. After repeated pleas to “just look at the camera and smile for one second” this was what we got.
The frustration is clear on all of our faces. It wasn’t what I wanted to remember from the trip as the other pictures were postcard worthy so this little gem got tossed in a drawer that housed other things I can’t throw away, but don’t really have uses for like participation ribbons and old report cards.
However, now when I see this picture I’m flooded with nostalgia that puts a smile on my face and lump in my throat. Now when I see it I think of what a precious time that was. A time when the kids were both smaller than me. When they could be bribed to do anything with a promise of getting some chicken nuggets and playing at McDonalds. A time when I packed Junie B Jones books in our luggage to read to them at bedtime. When I was able to dress them in coordinated monogrammed clothing without any resistance from anyone except their father.
There are times in life which can only be fully appreciated in hindsight.
I remember being exhausted and frustrated that day. I remember talking (daydreaming) on the way home with my husband about how in a few years they would travel better and be less work at restaurants. I’m not saying I ever drugged my kids back then when we were in the car traveling to our vacation spot, but I am saying that Dramamine is an over the counter drug and completely legal to administer.
I’m also not saying I ever want to go back to those days. Hell no. I quite like how my teenagers routinely abandon me for their friends these days. It gives me time to pour myself an adult beverage, go outside on my porch with my laptop and write. There are perks to not having to find a babysitter when I want to go to dinner alone with their dad. It ain’t all bad.
I’m just saying that when I look at this off-centered, grey, awkward family photo now I see a lot of beauty in it. I see a perfection in that photo that I didn’t see before. It reminds me of hard, but amazing times being their mom.
Sitting on the other side of it all, I see its gorgeous imperfection.
I lived it. I survived it. I enjoyed most of it.
I feel like maybe that should be my life mantra. Maybe at the end of each season of life, whether that season is a good season or a stormy one. No matter if I’m talking about the perils of raising kids, marriage, jobs, friendships, family or rainy beach vacations. Maybe the mark of success is having lived it, survived it and being able to say that I enjoyed most of it (or even a little of it).
When I’m sitting smack in the middle of a stressful time I need to remind myself this more often. I have a 100% success rate for surviving things thus far. It’s certain that I will grow and be stronger for it. I’m equally as certain that I’ll appreciate it and see the beauty in this part of life only after I’ve gotten on the other side of it.
Hindsight is 20/20. Whomever coined that phrase was wise and I’m guessing must have lived a little to have known that.
So my awkward family photo is coming out of this drawer and is going to join the other, more pristine looking beach photos. It’s not only coming out because I find it to be sweet now, but also to serve as a reminder to me that exhausting times, worrisome times…they are not only survivable, but will one day in the future be looked on as a time of beauty.
“Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead.” 1 Peter 1:6