Just after the New Year I started a family cinematography course with Emily Mitchell of the Everyday Film School. The final project was a short video documenting a month in the life of my family.
I always say that we go through different seasons as a family, and the one I was assigned to document was one where my daughter Junie and her two older brothers were constantly at odds.
That’s not an Instagram-perfect story to tell, but it’s our life, at least for now, and it’s real.
When I looked at the footage I had at the end of the month, it was naturally telling the story of her trying to figure out what her relationship with them was and trying to forge her own path in the world.
Junie is confident and curious and adventurous and tender-hearted. She has been feeling really emotional lately, and this project became a way to literally give her voice and agency in what was happening in her home life. It became more of a collaboration than I could have envisioned, but that made it even more special to me.
To be honest, it is hard to put it out there into the world for just that reason. It is so intimate and true to this tender season of our lives that it kind of breaks my heart open to watch it.
But I am proud of it, and proud of myself for the work I put in to learning this new craft. And proud, always, of my girl.
I also know that if I made this film in a month or six months or a year it would be completely different story. That is the fleeting beauty of the work I get to do, and I will never take that for granted.
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If you are interested in learning videography, I cannot recommend Emily’s class highly enough. I have taken many, many classes and workshops in my career and her content and teaching style is the best of the best. She is thorough in her instruction, generous in her knowledge, and heartfelt in her encouragement and critiques.
My first senior session in my new community of Wilmington, NC is for a guy whose step-mom I’ve known since I was a three-year-old in North Dakota. It’s funny how the world works.
Oliver is so wry and energetic and such a great conversationalist. We laughed a lot. Like most senior guys, he wasn’t that excited about a photo session, but by the time we were done, eating Dairy Queen in my car on the way home from the beach, I think he probably felt it wasn’t that bad.
My skateboarding husband calls my senior guy clients “dudes,” and sometimes it’s hard to shake that term when I’m talking about them. What I like about it, though, is it lends a certain chillness to the senior photo process for guys, and that’s something I pride myself in.
Have actual fun.
Make it quick and painless.
Be — and show the world — yourself. As his mom said, “You just absolutely GOT him, Christina! I cannot imagine anyone else capturing his personality the way you did.”
So here’s my dude Oliver.
If you know me, you know how much I love educators and people who dedicate themselves to making a difference in the lives of young people. This story is part of some volunteer work I do for my son’s PTA, but it moved me so much to bear witness to this moment that I wanted to share it with you. The most bittersweet part was how much it meant to her to be seen.
If there is someone who brightens your day or makes a difference in your or your child’s life, don’t wait for someone to give you the opportunity to tell them. Tell them now.
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Williston Middle School crossing guard Terry Warren was lamenting that “her babies,” this year’s eighth graders, were going to be gone in June, when she saw it:
The bouquet of flowers, coming across the crosswalk in the hands of PTA president Charlrean Batten Mapson.
Ms. Warren, a crossing guard of 16 years, knew immediately what was happening.
For 16 years she has ushered students at Forest Hills, Winter Park, Gregory, and most recently Williston into their school days.
In the mornings you can find her on 10th Street in front of Williston, directing traffic like a seasoned orchestra conductor, waving kids out of minivans and sternly raising her battered stop sign for speeding motorists before swiveling to cast a warm smile and a big wave to other drivers.
She is a master of her craft.
But you will also find her calling the boys off the nearby basketball court ten minutes before the bell like the grandmother they wouldn’t want to disappoint.
Or shaking her head in empathy as a student ever-so-slowly approaches the crosswalk, his head hanging low.
“He’s not a morning child,” she says quietly, before raising her voice to encourage him along.
Her work takes place outside of the school walls, but she is part of the fabric of the Williston community.
Because of her, students know, before they even cross the threshold of the school, that they are loved.
“I feel overwhelmed,” she said. “I am so happy to know that I am loved by the parents and the staff and the students. Bless you.”
Tears wiped away, she smiled as she packed her flowers and stop sign into her car. “I am glad to be a crossing guard, and I am an un-ordinary crossing guard.”
Friends, can we get real for a minute about tweens and teens? It breaks my heart that so many people skip over family photos during these years because their kids are moody. And awkward. And unreachable.
The truth is that every stage of family life is beautiful and fleeting, and deserving of being honored and remembered. Even these tough years. Especially these tough years.
You can throw every excuse at me about YOUR big kids, but I guarantee that in half an hour with me and my camera, you will come away with images that will, as one mom told me yesterday, make you ugly cry.
Make you see your life and your family in all of its awkward and loving and dazzling beauty.
Make you realize that everything you’re going through now is worth it.
My fall mini session calendar opens RIGHT HERE today. We can make a lot of magic in 30 minutes.
In the meantime, tell me your favorite thing about your tween or teen, so we can all send a little love your way.
This mama was so kind to me when I moved to Wilmington in January and we struck up a little friendship in the pick-up line at school. To me, as a Midwesterner looking in, she is Southern in all the best ways — warm and welcoming, impeccably stylish and witty and fun, and so full of heart.
It was easy to see where her kiddos get it. I had a tough time sneaking a photo of them looking at me because they were so busy loving on their new baby Mac, absentmindedly holding his hands, kissing his head, tickling his toes, playing with his feathery hair.
They just couldn’t help it, and it made my heart swell to get to watch them.
That is one lucky baby, to be born into a family where love comes so naturally.