These words are really meant for one set of eyes in particular. This is for Morgan, my nephew's lovely wife who just had a tender morsel of a baby. A dark-haired peanut with a forceful cry and a habit of throwing up an arm’s length in front of her sleeping face, in a way that mimics Greta Garbo's “I vant to be alone!” It is this newborn girl named Ruthie Jean who is the source of our happiest moments now in my extended family's life. She weighs in at a little more than 5 pounds, but because of her, our hearts are heavy with joy.
But Morgan is a lot like me when I had my first child. I was so concerned. I was sopping wet with it. I can't even begin to specify what I was so anxious about, because the list of worries was so long. Like so many first-time moms, I had a bookshelf of reference guides and parenting tomes, I conferred with friends and family and joined a playgroup for our young kids to “blob” together. (To blob means when a totally dependent being sits on a warm lap while its head warbles and the drool drips. Don't take offense. As babies, we've all been there, and I hate to break it to you, but some of us will be there again, sooner than we’d like to think.)
For some of us who have children, we understand that the books, the friends, the family, and the playgroups that we put in place and practice to help us can actually have the opposite effect. We read about one way to burp our babies, and then Grandma corrects our technique. Our best friend, who is already a pro with not one but two kids in a playgroup, walks in and says, “No, no, no. Not like that! Like this!” And then we enter a room filled with parents and their blobs and you can only guess what happens next.
Morgan came into our family -- our large, loud, somewhat-judgie group -- while still in college. She and my nephew met at I.U. Both armed with good looks and a bevy of fun friends, they were serious from the start but handled their relationship with fun and a refreshing levity. At each get-together, our chair count needed for the dinner table included one each for them without having to ask. Morgan became Mac's other half in that comfortable and easy way. It just was.
About a year or so before my husband Charley died, I hired Morgan to take some portraits of our family of four. She was just out of school and had confidently and creatively started her photography business. She came to our home one Sunday morning and documented the life we had made. And while I -- always the programmer -- had suggested we pose in a neighbor's yard, Morgan humored me and clicked away, but we chose none of those shots. The ones that were her brainchild were the winners. The photos were natural and brimming with great light. The images captured us as we were -- happy. Simply happy.
If you have ever had to plan a funeral for someone close to you, you realize how ridiculous it is. You are devastated, sleep-deprived, wandering through the day in a crappy daze, but you still have to organize and host one of the greatest parties for your departed loved one. Go figure. It's a lot like asking someone who is only equipped to blob to rise to the occasion. Insanity is what it is actually. As I and that loud, opinionated family I mentioned earlier arranged for Charley's final party, Morgan had one of our family portraits enlarged on canvas and framed. And there we were, the four us, at the front of that church. I was so proud to see us peering out from that photo, bravely facing that crowd of six hundred people who came to say goodbye to such a lovely man. And I was so happy that Morgan had been able to recognize what we had been and how we had felt that beautiful summer morning. She gave us “us” on the day we most needed it.
And so my message to Morgan is this: Love that baby, but remember to point, click and shoot often. That confident and creative photographer (I still see Morgan as) will be that confident and creative mother. Shelve the books, discerningly listen to child-rearing advice, and rather than go to some playgroup where Ruthie Jean will blob for an hour on your lap, maybe take a much-needed nap instead. Then awake refreshed, strap on baby and grab your camera. Your worlds await.