This family is the model for the kind of work I want to do this year. They are not styled, because you don’t style three boys, you just thank your stars that three boys showed up and allowed you to photograph them.
They aren’t posed. Instead they just let me see them, in all their vulnerability, and they loved hard, with a love that is unabashed, unashamed, unbridled.
This is how their life as a family looks. They are lucky to have each other, and I was lucky to get to bear witness to it.
Adventure is one of our family values.
We Beams take off and see what the universe throws at us. We don’t have itineraries, we don’t make detailed travel plans. To some that might seem cavalier, especially with kids. But to us it’s part of being fully open to the possibilities that travel holds.
This summer my husband had to attend a weeklong trade show near Times Square, and it occurred to me, “Why not bring the whole family along and squeeze into his tiny midtown hotel room?”
I went to college in the Hudson River Valley and spent many weekends taking the Metro-North train along the river until it deposited me in the middle of the majesty of Grand Central Station. I usually only had enough money for a subway pass and a bagel, and I would spend the day people-watching at Rockefeller Center at Christmas or roaming the East Village, pretending to be a little bit punk.
And that’s all I wanted for my kids — to be immersed in the city.
We gave each kid their own metro card and set off.
We ate a 1920s pho house in Chinatown.
We got my 16-year-old an $8 haircut and shave at a barbershop where no one spoke English.
We took an impromptu walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at night.
We followed a fast-walking older Chinese man to a second location in Little Italy in pursuit of “Gucci” accessories.
Sometimes we just spent a few hours in Bryant Park or Washington Square Park, playing chess or jenga or splashing in fountains.
We skipped any attraction we would have to pay for, except for The Met, where we spent an entire day.
We ate a lot of bagels and pretzels and cheap pizza. We people-watched in Rockefeller Plaza and roamed around the East Village. I tried to let them lead the way and do whatever they were interested in each day. No itinerary. No plans.
I loved seeing their amazement. But more than that it was incredible to see how quickly they adapted to the city, the ease with which these small-town Wisconsin kids trudged six or eight miles a day among skyscrapers and through crowded subway cars.
I’m proud of them for so many reasons, big and small. But their openness to seeing what the world holds for them just breaks my heart right open.
When my dear Wisconsin friends visited me here in Wilmington I was so grateful to get to show them my little corner of North Carolina, floating in the ocean and talking and spraying 50 spf on our kids and burying our toes in the sand under a beach umbrella and just connecting as if a year hadn’t passed.
Kate talked about how special this vacation was to her. She was the youngest of four kids in a farming family, and had never been to the ocean growing up. To be able to share this magic with her own kids was priceless.
She soaked in that all week — when a line of dolphins swaggered by just off shore, when her kids chased the waves and let the waves chase them, when little fingernails packed with sand studied a new shark tooth necklace, when she kissed the tops of little heads that smelled of salt and sunscreen and the copper penny of childhood sweat.
She teared up talking about what this photo session meant to her. “Everyone should have that experience,” she said. “It was one of the best parts of our vacation.”
This is a fundraiser for the school and 100% of proceeds will go to the Williston PTA to help meet the needs of Williston students and teachers.
* * * * *
Since moving to Wilmington and enrolling our son in Williston Middle School last year, my husband and I have had a lot of neighbors and other parents ask us, at birthday parties and barbecues and PTA meetings, in hushed tones, “So what is it… like at Williston?”
I will tell you what I tell all of them.
That Williston has been an absolute blessing for our family. That our son is happy and well-adjusted and growing academically and as a person not in spite of his school, but because of it.
That the educators he’s had there have been exceptional. End of sentence.
That his group of friends is both diverse and made up of the kind of kids we look forward to having to our home.
That to us, diversity is part of a good education. Hearing world views and perspectives that are different than your own in class and at the lunch table and after school challenges you. It makes you a better learner. It makes you a better thinker.
We’ve seen it in our son.
And just like that he is graduating, and I got to spend last night with a group of Williston eighth graders who charmed the pants off of me with their wit and humor, their kindness to each other and abundance of “yes, ma’am”s, their silly dance moves and just general spiffiness.
And I got to spend the whole night telling these kids that they looked beautiful, because they did. And they are.
Congratulations, graduating eighth graders. Now go shine.
This was the scene in the Alderman Elementary library today, when a crew of our best local barbers and stylists arrived for our second annual “Look Good, Feel Good Day.”
They wheeled in their barber chairs and unpacked the tools of their trade, taking off work to volunteer their time to help the kids at our little school feel great ahead of end-of-the-year testing.
But there was more happening here than cutting and styling hair.
They treated our students like real customers, and with dignity and care.
They gave our boys the tidiest of edging and the sickest of fades (the kids’ words, not ours), and they treated our girls to the neatest of curls and the most beautiful braiding.
And when they were done, these craftsmen and women left our Alderman Eagles feeling celebrated and supported and ready to take on the EOGs… if not the world.
At Alderman we talk a lot about doing our best work. Today, through these amazing community partners, we got to see what that means.