Monday, December 20, 2010

On my Grandmother's Birthday...

Today would have been my Grandmother's 91st birthday. 
I had the best Granny in the world.  I am not just saying that either.  I know sometimes people look back through rose colored glasses and see things as better than they were but that is simply not the case here.  She was the best.  Want to know how I know?  Because even when I was a child, a teenager, a young adult...whenever, I knew she was the best.  She was the type of Granny that opened the door wide open for her grandchildren.  She would host New Year Eve party's for us and all six of the grandchildren would spend the night and wreak havoc all night long.  And she wouldn't even send us home on New Year's Day!  We could stay that night too! 
Granny would go to garage sales and give us each some money to buy things.  We used to love getting up early on Saturday mornings, sitting at the breakfast table and planning our route.  She would also buy incredible things for us.  Once she bought us a mannequin!  I mean, who does that?  We had every comic book known to mankind and costumes galore!  She would get us old Opryland costumes and we used them to put on plays all of the time.  She would sit through endless hours of our plays.  We would have at least ten thousand "Granny of the Year" plays and she never even acted annoyed when they would dissolve into absolute silliness and giggles. 
She instilled a strong sense of family in all of us.  We grew up with our cousins and we are all friends to this day.  She would take all six of us on fun trips like Chattanooga where we would stay on the train.  I remember the time she was going through "Fat Man's Squeeze" in Rock Island and she acted like she was stuck.  I loved it so much I did the same thing to my children when we went decades later. 
Once my grandfather was home from work because of the snow and he decided to rearrange my Granny's kitchen cabinets.   That is one of my favorite memories.  It was so funny to see her fuming and begging him to get out of her kitchen. 
When she moved onto the old Langford Estate in Langford Farms there were no other homes there and she would let us drive her car all around the Estate.  We were about fourteen at the time.  She probably figured out that might not be the wisest idea when she was planting in the garage and I drove her car through the garage door.  Hmmmm...that memory is still not funny!
Her house was always full of people.  We were in and out of there all of the time.  She would just sit in her chair and wait on us.  She knew sooner or later one of us (or all of us) would be dropping by to see her.
She always kept candy in her candy jars, there was always diet coke in her fridge.  These are little things but it was the little things that made my Granny so awesome.  She understood traditions and values.  She was one of the strongest women I have ever known.  I never saw her cry but I had often seen her laugh.  She was strong and proud and warm and I miss her so much sometimes I don't think I can bear it.   She always said she was so lucky that she was not one of those lonely old women whose family thought of them as a burden at best.  I say we were the lucky ones. 
She died exactly like she lived.  Surrounded by every single one of us.   I think she would have liked that. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Daughter Turning 25....

               Photo above is by Allen Griggs.  Scrapbook Page by me
Today  my girl turns twenty-five.  Not of my body but first born in my heart, Chelsey is the only child I actually got to pick out!  I meet her twenty-one years ago at the daycare where I was working.  I taught the four year olds at the time and she moved into my class right before she turned four.  I fell in love with her right away.  And through her I met and fell in love with her Daddy.  I guess you could say that I owe my whole life to her.  I did not know at the time that she would come to be so intricately wound in my life but I think she did.   She would beg me every day to not leave work until her Daddy picked her up.  I could deny her nothing and thus quickly got to know the man she felt (and still feels) hung the moon just for her.  I remember him dropping her off in the mornings.  He would stand by the water fountain and fix her hair into a haphazard ponytail.  What woman's heart wouldn't melt over that?  When she came into class she would smell like his cologne and all of the teachers would want to hug on her because she smelled so good.  She talked about her father constantly.  I fell in love with her, then I fell in love with the beautiful relationship she had with her father and then I fell in love with her Daddy.  The first time he kissed me she spotted it, started giggling and with a look of bewilderment asked, "Daddy!!  Why are you kissing Miss Amy?".  LOL...She then proceeded to tell the entire daycare.  Needless to say, we were quite the talk!
The minute she met my mom and dad she called them "Grandmama" and "Grandpapa".  She totally melted my dad's heart, so much so that he scolded me not to "screw this one up".  HA!  I finally listened to him this time!
The first year with Chel consisted of "you know what", "Hey, Miss Amy, you know what?", "Guess what".  It went on for hours, days!  She had this adorable country twang and could turn the word "what" into two syllables.  She was not perfect (She and her friends Liza and Sarah loved to eat dirt) but she was pretty dang close.  She still is.  She is the daughter I always wanted and the girl God sent special to me.
Chelsey has grown from that tiny dancing ballerina to a teacher of dance.  She always impresses me with her dedication and love of the art form.  I enjoy her.  I love her.  She is my sweet baby girl and she is my good friend.  I owe the past twenty-one years of my life to her and I am so grateful and blessed. 
Now if she would just hurry up, find a man and give me some grandbabies!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Desperately Seeking My Babies!!

On the evening of my third son's fifteenth birthday I am sitting here confused, proud and sad. I am proud of the man my sweet, blond haired, blue eyed baby is becoming, confused by how fast it has all happened and saddened at the loss of yet another baby as he hurdles to adulthood. I am also saddened by how much I can't remember about the process. I look back through old photos and my heart skips a beat when I see certain things that are now lost forever...that look of amazement that would skitter across his face when he saw something new, those sweet blond curls now darkened and cut short. My Nicholas. Some things stand out in my mind. I remember the funny way he used to talk. Blake was the only one who could understand him and he would play interpreter for us. Nicholas would say, "boird" for "bird" and he would trill his lips when he said, "French Fries" in a way no one else in the family could quite imitate. He was always smart as a whip and we had him programming the VCR when he was three. To this day he is the go to guy for all technical questions. Nicholas has always had a calm way about him, so much so that he is often lost in the shuffle of this tumultuous household. He always just does what he is supposed to do, no arguments, no hassles.
He has always been amazingly close to his younger brother and is only now starting to pull away from Evan. And although I know this separation is normal and inevitable it pains me to see how much it is hurting Evan.
Nicholas was born six months before my father died. I found my father dead of a heart attack right before Mother's Day and I must admit it threw my life into a tailspin. I began having panic attacks and was thrown into such a deep depression that I just couldn't see my way out. Because of this I always felt like I missed out on the beginning of Nicholas' life, that I cheated him. So much of his first couple of years are lost in the darkness of those days. I spent so much time trying to forget the darkness that I let go of alot of the light as well. (Thank God for Prozac!)
I guess that is one of my true regrets. That I did not stop and savor those moments. That it seems like everything became a step toward another. Nothing was ever IN and OF itself. Hurry and get them dressed so we can eat breakfast. Hurry and eat breakfast so we can go to the store. Hurry and get through the store so we can fix lunch. Hurry, hurry, hurry! How many times have I told them to, "Hurry Up!"? Why was I always in such a hurry? Now I spend all of my time wishing I could slow it all back down.
My beautiful fair haired angel is now all grown up and ready to get his permit and seriously! I miss that baby! But you know what? Tonight I hung out with my boy. And I was in no hurry. We went and found him a new phone for his birthday and then went to dinner, just the two of us. And though he probably thought it was a normal, fairly boring evening, it was anything but to me. I was in no hurry. I sat with him and I watched him and I enjoyed him. Tonight was IN and OF itself and I was there in the moment, all of me. I love that kid. I love him inside and outside, backwards and forwards, upside down and all around. He has been a part of me for a mere fifteen years yet I love him timelessly, endlessly. I am looking forward to meeting the man he will become but I am in no hurry I think I will just try and enjoy every moment of this boy who is now fifteen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

When a Photographer tries to Photograph their own...

"Okay, it is time and I can do this!" So I have been chanting to myself over and over the past few months leading up to the inevitable Family Christmas Card Session of Terror! This year is a special one because my oldest children no longer have braces and my youngest one gets them on the first of the year. Therefore this year I am going to do a large wall portrait. Piece of cake, right? I mean, after all this is what I do all day every day.
Flashback to the Rich Christmas Card Sessions of the Past....sort of like the ghosts of Christmas Past foretold Ebeneezer's future these past sessions should have given me a clue that my expectations were too high. After all we always have to alert the neighbors when we are going to do the session so they don't panic when they hear screams, yelling, tears and possibly see the SWAT team swarming the house. They can just shrug it off and say, "It's okay to stay outside, honey. That is just Ms. Rich attempting to photograph her children again".
But I was determined!! This was THE year!! I knew the look I wanted, Black on Black. I bought all of the boy's shirts a month ago, had them try them on and then hid them at the studio so I would not have any clothing woes. I told all of them over and over what time the photos were to be taken...noon on Sunday, noon on Sunday, noon on Sunday...they should have it hammered in by now. "Alex, don't forget the photos are noon tomorrow". "Alex, don't forget the photos are noon tomorrow". "Alex, don't forget the photos are noon tomorrow". "MOM!! I know!!! Stop that! You are driving me crazy! How could I possibly forget as you have said nothing else to me for weeks!" "That's fine Alex, I love you! Don't forget the photos are noon tomorrow".
I go to bed feeling pretty confident. After all everything is prepared and ready to go!
Wake up and it all goes downhill from there. I had some kind of allergic reaction to the garland's I was hanging and broke out in hives and scratched until I bled. And let me just say that I don't get pimples. I have never had pimples. Even as a teen I had a smooth complexion but I wake up with a pimple the size of Rhode Island on the side of my nose. "Don't sweat it" I tell myself. After all I have mad photoshop skills! So I am looking in the mirror to try put some cover up on the massive mountain on my face when I notice not only the mountain but all of the new craters. I look like the freaking lunar landscape! When in the world did I get so old?? Seriously!
No time for worries, just round up the kids. So off I go. My eldest son, Alex, is MIA. So I start calling everyone he has ever known looking for him. Of course it is before eleven so none of his friends are alive yet and I can't find him. I call my daughter and tell her to take her time getting here as I am searching for her brother. Finally I find him at 12:15 and tell him to hurry and get home. Should I tell him now that as far as I am concerned he needs to find another home? No, that must wait until after pictures. Yelling at number one son is not conducive to a pleasant photo shoot. So I bite my tongue, tell him to get in the shower and that I will meet them all at the studio.
Just a little bit longer and then all of this will be behind me! I can do it! I can do it!!
Kids come in and I glance up at Alex, determined not to yell when I notice the three day old stubble all over his beautiful face! He says, "I didn't think it looked that bad." Maybe to a homeless person! I sent the husband off for shaving cream and razor. Things are definitely not looking good.
I start wondering why I bother! Why do people do this? Why go through this just for a photo? UGH! I hate this, I hate photos, I hate my job, I am quitting!
Finally everyone is dressed and ready. I start arranging them. Chelsey is determined to get a good photo. Alex is rolling his eyes and fuming. Blake is looking at me with a look of total boredom. Evan is on a sugar high and Nicholas is just enjoying the show.
"Smile"! I get grimaces. "Come on guys! I just need one good photo." Fakest smiles I have ever seen. I get frustrated and I become the parent that I hate to have walk into my studio. I start yelling. Okay, I know this does not help. I KNOW THIS but I just can NOT seem to shut my mouth! Now I am mad at them and mad at myself. This is not going well. It never goes well. Why can't they just pretend that we are a happy and fully functioning family for five minutes??? WOULD IT BE SO HARD????? Jeez!
So now I start to cry. This makes everyone mad at Alex who they blame for the whole fiasco. They all start yelling at each other. Alex's sole defender, Blake, is screaming at everyone that they are being mean to Alex. I go in my office and cry. Alex comes in and says to come out and lets just finish. I yell, "Just forget it!" and he storms out of the studio, slamming the door which breaks the door lock. Now my husband has to go get tools and a new door handle and spends the next two hours working on this.
Sigh....seriously! This is why you should never photograph your own children. Especially my children. The signs were there all along. Allen Griggs still talks about the time Blake just threw a total melt down temper tantrum at his studio. I mean how many children has Allen photographed? Thousands? Yet MY child is the one who sticks out in his mind? When I took the kids to Annie's Photography for Easter Bunny photos she told me that one of them was threatening the Easter Bunny's life!! So why am I always surprised when these photo sessions always disolve into a nuclear melt down?
Anyway, here I am at the end of the day. I feel terrible about the whole day. I did everything wrong and now none of my kids are talking to each other and the air is heavy with regrets. Especially mine. I could have handled the session way better and gotten an entirely different result....maybe.
Sigh,,,,Yet another failed Christmas Session. Maybe the worst one in recent memory.
Do you think I should try again next weekend or just have myself committed?