I never take first day of school photos. Ok, once I took one–Mimi’s first day of kindergarten. Possibly I took a few more, back in the days when photos came from real cameras with real film then, at least in my case, mostly went right inside a real shoebox once back from the drugstore or mail order developing place. But today it dawned on me: this is the last first day. The last first day of school I’ll ever experience or be able to document. So I took a few photos, both Matthew and I laughing because I *never* take first day of school photos.
Did I mention I’m a really shitty photographer? I suppose even a crap iPhone 5s photo today is better than whatever crummy real camera photo I might have taken 10 years ago, but the fact remains that if I ever do manage to snap a photo that doesn’t suck, it’s a rare thing and a result of luck rather than skill or anything I could replicate. So I figured I better take a few photos of Matthew as he gathered his things for his first day of senior year, rather than rely on one money shot which, knowing my photography skill, would most likely be terrible and capture nothing more than an ill-at-ease looking teen in bad light with the wrong stuff in the background.
I took one of him putting on his backpack…bad lighting. I took one of him as he walked down the driveway, away from me…blurry. I had him stop and turn around, both of us at a loss as to what one does for a first day of school photo. He smiled awkwardly and I took yet another horrible one, blurry and at least three cars in the background. Wait, I told him–stand in front of the house by the front door–then it will be like a real first day of school photo. He hurried back to the front door, my ever-compliant boy, so good natured and eager to please. There he stood, awkward and tall, a man, backpacked up and ready to jump in the car and drive off to his last first day of school. I snapped one last shitty, out of focus and badly framed photo and let him go, waiting until I was back in the house before I let the tears flow. Photos or not, these years have sped and crept by and this time next year, the house will be quiet and still and empty.
I can’t believe this is it–the culmination of all the years of worrying and loving and stressing and trying to make a marriage work and staying up all night with sick babies, of waiting in pediatrician offices for sick visits and well visits, playground trips and playgroup and playdates and ballet and soccer and karate and lazy summers at the pool and harried summers racing from work to camp pickup, clothes shopping and laughing and crying and cuddling and more worrying. Years of wanting time to speed up, of wanting time to stand still, of wishing for a do-over–so many do-overs I’d do, if given a chance. But there are no do-overs, and I know I am so lucky to have had these years, however fleeting and imperfect. And so I savor my last first day photo, and know that I didn’t really need a photo to remember this day, or any other day of mothering…the experience and the memories are enough.