That’s the only instruction he gave us: tidying is forbidden. Not, these are the colours to wear if you want to harmonise without strictly matching, or, here’s how to turn to avoid the dreaded double-chin.
Those last two statements are what I expected to hear from an experienced photographer about to take our first official family photos, to pioneer our inaugural experiment in memory preservation outside of the instantaneous click of the iphone. And like any good perfectionist I’d done my research. I’d seen the glossy families, looking effortlessly chic, in the how to posts. I’d watched New Zealand’s next top model, and knew all about the dangers and hazards of not maximising your angles, of not playing to the light. In theory I was all for going with the flow, of keeping things ‘au naturale’, but in practice . . . .
Confession: I like all things folky. Our wedding, 12 years ago now (wow), was a rustic theme. I wore a ring of flowers in my hair Maid Marion style. We had nifty little lanterns with fake ivy wrapped around them for table decorations.
I like my ‘natural’ a certain way. I like things to look effortless, but in doing so I often put in quite a bit of effort. Why? That old gnarly chestnut again: caring what people think. In an age of image-management, aren’t we all projecting our ideal visions of ourselves to the world, trying to convince ourselves in the process that they are true.
And so I politely listened to Rob’s words, and quietly planned anarchy. That’s right, internally, I was already straightening, and rearranging. I wanted to shape and manipulate. I wanted to control. I wanted a haircut.
Thankfully my family was more on board with Rob’s philosophy than mine.
When Rob arrived camera slung effortlessly cool over his neck (and I think in his situation this really was the case) emanating an excitement and joy that was catching, W was shirtless after spill 121 of the day, E’s hair was even wilder than usual, and Baby J’s nappy was bursting to explosion point from beneath his onesie. (On an important tangental note, why is it I can never get those onesie press studs right? I’m convinced its some sort of industry wide joke on vulnerable, sleep deprived parents: Let’s make baby clothes like rubik’s cubes!).
The above described chaos was just the kids. Dr M and I were by this time dripping with perspiration. It was a hot, hot day, far from the crisp autumn morning of my catalogue-cool imaginings.
But where I saw mess, and imperfection, Rob saw only wonder . . .
He loved the house. I love it too. He wouldn’t let me move anything.Not even the countless hand sanitizers littering the mantle.
“But. . .” I kept saying.
“Its great!” He’d reply.
Don’t you just love those people who can do that, who make up for the deficiencies in the rest of us by being perennially, over-the-top-in-a-good-way positive.
He even messed things up a little more, and when the kids picked up a mat from the floor and started playing around with it on their heads . . . he went wild with them . . . .
And, shot by shot, frame by frame, one captured moment of the ordinary after another, Rob bottled our family as it is right now: 3 kids under 4, a new baby, a harried mum, a sleep deprived dad, and . . . grace. And joy. He saw the ‘extra’ in the ‘ordinary.’
And he captured beauty, like any good artist should, in light and shade. He told a story, a story of us.
It’s tempting to think the big moments are the defining ones, the accomplishments reached, the measurable and quantifiable achievements.
But THIS is it. These are the people God has given us, to serve, to love. One second, one camera click, at a time.
Dr M told me how they talked in class about every moment being worship. Not just the formal ones, not just the ones where people are watching.
Because this is life right now. This crazy beautiful, maddening chaos. This going round and round in circles, this messiness that refuses to be tamed. And if we spend time editing and self-correcting.. . . we will miss it, and opportunities to ‘add to the beauty” (song lyric by Sarah Groves), to love others.
Isn’t that after all the highest form of art?
And there’s so many reasons to be thankful, even on the bad days. Sometimes we just need to look a bit more at what’s already there, and notice.
And Rob saw the beauty in it all. He saw W’s unwavering smile, right at you, and E’s dreamy look, off to the side, and J’s baby boisterousness, wriggling and moving, mouthing mysteries into the air.
And Rob gave us a gift.
He helped us see. And so to love. To give thanks.
© All photos in this post by Rob Viuya. You can follow Rob on Instagram at @rr_v