October 31, 2010

The paparazzi...

When my daughter Audra was just a bouncing baby girl, my mom and I had our first girls’ day out with her, taking her to a butterfly museum in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Cameras ready, we made our way through this interesting and fanciful place, fascinated by the butterflies, to be sure, but also excited to watch this sweet little baby enjoying a new experience.  At just ten months old, she was mesmerized by the beautiful creatures flying here and there, and my mom and I snapped pictures to capture every moment, taking over a hundred photographs between us.  Through this diligent effort, we captured from two vantage points the entire scene of Audra’s first contact with a butterfly.

Audra is six years old now, and has a little camera of her own, the sturdy type for children, handed down to her by one of her big brothers.  It’s not only capable of taking pictures, but has a video feature too.  A few months back on a Sunday afternoon, she brought it along when we went to a small airport nearby for our son Scott to have his flight lesson.  My husband Joe, our other kids and I watched and with our cameras ready too.  Joe and I had each recently acquired fancy-schmancy smart phones that did the job, and our twin eight-year-old boys each had hand-me-down old digital cameras.  We got every moment of Scott taxiing, taking off, and soaring into the distance, both with pictures and video.  We then directed our attention to other airplanes and to each other, clicking away to see what interesting shots we could find.  As I turned to take some pictures of Audra, I realized she was now busy with her own photographic subject.
Audra had befriended a complacent and compliant butterfly.  As it sat perched on the grass, she got herself down to its level with her little camera and created a video of this handsome creature.

In the spirit of friendship, she then played back the video for her newfound companion.  She looked up at me and said, “Look, Mom… he’s watching himself on TV!”

We went there that day with cameras ready for a very special event, our young son having one of his flight lessons (more on that nerve-wracking but exciting subject another time!)  But we had the bonus of capturing our daughter’s film-making debut, and of creating a record of her gentle way of interacting with even the smallest of friends.
My father has a saying that he’ll bring up at family gatherings, “Let’s stop taking pictures of having fun and just have fun,” jokingly teasing those of us who just can’t put the camera down.  At times I subscribe to that philosophy, particularly if children are being forced to stand or sit facing the camera in various configurations, told to say “cheese” and smile.  They hate it, and if we adults are being honest, we don’t like that experience much either.  But taking pictures of kids running through a sprinkler, or spontaneously hugging their great-grandma, or clomping around in their dad's shoes, or building a blanket fort, or flying an airplane, or befriending and filming a butterfly… that’s a different story.  We can’t document our lives endlessly.  But digital cameras have no film budget, unlike the old days, and getting a couple great shots among hundreds of attempts costs nothing but time and patience.  Having cameras handy at special times and not-so-special times can yield special results, capturing a moment to be enjoyed not just in the present, but for years to come.  Kids are only kids for a fleeting time, and we will be grateful later in life to be able to look back at sweet memories from their childhood, just as they will be too.
It’s nice to see that Audra has learned from us to be ready with a camera, because even butterflies have been known to enjoy a home video now and then.  They, too, grow up so fast.

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