Tuesday, January 4, 2011


There is a member of my family (who shall, for the moment, remain nameless) who prides herself in carrying multiple tools of documentation with her at all times. She lives her life from behind a view-finder the way someone who fears chemical warfare may permanently adorn themselves in a gas-mask. Aside from periodic breaks to eat or use the toilet, I can never recall seeing her without a photographing weapon of choice. This is a topic of prominent irritation for the whole family, who no longer attempt to hide their groans when being filmed while chewing a bite of turkey or intercepted on their way out the door for a force-faced family photo.

I never understood this near-panic stricken desire to document every waking moment.
Until now.

For the first many months of Opal's life, when the days seemed to brim with an abundancy of time (which could admittedly be a hind-sight mirage) I felt on top of my chronicling game.

At that time I was organized and had a plan for gathering and sharing Opal-highlights. I wrote a monthly letter to my her, describing in great detail how she was growing before our very eyes, offering her one example after another of the details of her rapid and successful flourishing. I also posted albums on Facebook with captions and a small synopsis. I sent a monthly email to family and close friends with photos attached and another small synopsis of the particulars, the developmental attributes, the mesmerizing aspects of this little girl's existence. A proclamation of our Noticing, long before she would ever understand or nearly care.

These wildly in-depth registers were incredibly comforting for a while, helped me to harness the time as it passed, as if the next month was authorized to proceed when I typed, emailed and posted it into being, rather than when the calendar said so.

As to be expected, this impressive— perhaps rigid?— level of documentation is indeed no longer happening. Somewhere around the 1 year mark, when life-in-addition-to-momhood began to flourish, a time that coincided with spending every evening for upwards of month editing the 9-hours of video we'd taken of her in her first year down to a 30-minute nub to share with the family for the holidays, I started to fall behind in other areas. The photos are piling up. The bits and nibbies of Opal-notes and particular scene sketches are shoved in a drawer. I have a half-dozen blogs perched in the unfinished drafts folder like a row of unpainted tchotchkes on a shelf.

I am indeed documentation-constipated.

And Opal has no interest in pausing to wait for me to catch up. Rightly so— I could barely keep up with her when keeping up with her was all I had to do, my hobby, my job and my cure for insomnia and when Bravo! Get the Camera! accompanied her kicking a blanket off or batting at a dangling toy.

She's on fire now—grasping things on a daily basis. shocking us with brilliance that is honestly too stunning and inscrutable to pin down.

In a way, it is difficult to simply witness such shocking splendor— a peacock standing before its wall of feathers or a manatee chomping at lettuce as if they were both weightless in space, or an orchid omitting a drip of sap like a tear or a sunset that looks as if the sky were melting into the neat pencil-line of the horizon—without wanting to capture it all and take it on the road to nibble on like an endless supper.

So this year, I aim to relax a bit.
To allow myself to enjoy Opal with perhaps a little less time behind the pen or the view-finder.
I'll never not scribble down the noteworthy moments or snap photos or blog about, as the example du jour, her new obsession with walking the rag-doll monkey around the living room repeating walka-walka-walka-walka through a thoroughly self-pleased grin.
But I do aim to gather the moments with more an attitude of treasure hunting rather than panic-induced hoarding.

And to the dear auntie who was referred to in the beginning: I understand more than you know the impulse of wanting to set up camp permanently behind the camera lens. It somehow dulls the inherent heartbreak of the simple fact that all moments pass, never to taste the same in retrospect as they did the moment they occurred.
But the good news is that a continuous stream of other moments are right around the corner, ready to pounce, giggling "Boo!" with side-sloped bedhead, candy-striped jammies and a very warn bunny tucked under one arm.

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