This was the second year in a row having family photos taken for holiday cards as a single mother.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been “that mom” who wants beautiful family portraits of love and laughter, with perfectly paired outfits and everyone’s hair just right. “That mom” who wants the photographer to capture exactly how I picture our family to be. “That mom” who even wants the card recipients to envy me and my sweet family. (But only a little bit.)
The thing is, taking those family pictures last year? It was painful. The absence of my husband, who abruptly left me and our three children for another woman earlier that year, was almost enough to make me forego the photos. No amount of Photoshop expertise could mask the fact that our family was no longer whole.
Last year’s holiday card ended up with just a picture with the kids, as I couldn’t bear to smile away the pain. I was everything that the previous years’ holiday cards were not, and I wasn’t going to dampen the happiness my children continued to exude. While the three of them, dressed in coral and blue, were photographed among the local magnolia trees, I stayed in the shadows, off to the side.
Since that photo shoot a year and a half ago, my kids and I have done a lot of healing. Faith and prayer, friend and family support, medication, and therapy (lots and lots of therapy) have all played a role in my healing. The four of us have relied on each other, and mostly we’ve adjusted to our new circumstances. I’ve seen my children struggle — and I’ve also seen them grow. So when it was time to schedule family pictures for the year, I planned the outfits with mine included. I had done some growing, too.
Knowing our photographer was scheduling the shoot at a local nature preserve, I scouted out the foliage. Yellows were abundant, with a few deep reds. I decided the best color scheme would be navy blue, denim, and grey. The night before, I pulled together what I thought looked to be a very complimentary and coordinated look. I planned out hair for myself and the girls. I even watched a YouTube tutorial on using grey eyeshadow. The next morning, my makeup was flawless and my hair curled like a dream. The kids kept their clothes clean and their hair presentable.
As we pulled into the parking lot of the nature preserve, however, a fine mist started covering the windshield. Anxiously, I flipped the wipers on and off again. Then I got a text from the photographer. “Finishing up with another client. Hoping to avoid the rain, but we may have to reschedule.”
I turned off the engine and looked back at my picture-perfect kids in the back seat. My first inclination was to respond, “Yeah. Rescheduling is probably for the best.” But as I sat there and looked at my three beautiful kids in their coordinating outfits, laughing and tickling each other, I knew I didn’t want to reschedule. This was our new family. Broken? Sure. But more importantly? Happy. And I wasn’t going to let a little rain get in the way of that.
We got out of the car and took shelter while we waited for our photographer. She came right over to us and started posing us on the benches, getting some great shots. Especially of the kids. Then hesitantly, she asked, “do you mind braving the light drizzle to get some photos with the leaves in the background?”
“Let’s do it,” I said, the older two kids looking at me cautiously.
Exposed to the elements, it didn’t take long before my hair was frizzing and my son’s glasses were covered in rain drops. It took even less time for both of my daughters to find puddles to splash in. And before I knew it, we were soaked from head to toe.
The resulting pictures are far from what I had planned for that day, but in their own way, they’re perfect.