Mom is never in the picture. Literally. The reason is not dark or obscure. You see Mom wields the camera. Mom takes the pictures. While Dad knows all about the perils of back lighting, shooting into the sun and is quick to suggest that if everyone moves just slightly to their left, their right or pivot sideways the lighting would be better, he never does pick up the camera. Mom is always hoping to catch that moment of carefree fun when Dad is teaching the youngest to swim or the oldest to ride a bike. Invariably, a lecture about lighting ensues and the kids grow twitchy and self-conscious.
Every couple has their own black hole where the same argument spirals around a dark center and is never resolved. No light escapes. The gravitational force of this familiar argument sucks all the energy in its path. For Mom and Dad, evidence of their failure to arrive at a good playbook for documenting the growing family (“just shut up and don’t blink when the shutter falls”) is evidenced in the countless pictures of staged smile where the family (sans Mom) line up perfectly and shout “cheese”.
Sometimes, Mom squeezes the color from her pictures. In the winter months for instance, especially in the rush to get to school, the pictures appear to her as black and white. Maybe there’s a splotch of color, like red mittens, but in the grim rush of events to catch the bus, it’s as if the urgency to keep things moving forward kills any hope of color bleeding through.
Despite the calendar being stuck in the endless loop that is March, lately, Mom has been experiencing the world as radiant. It started with the toilet backing up (clearly, a situation rendered in black and white). The Plumber was booked solid for the next three weeks and so Mom agreed that the Plumber should send his Son whom he has been mentoring. The Son walked in on that cold black and white morning dressed in canary yellow and a purple that brought to mind Welch’s grape jam. The Son was competent and way easier on the eyes than his grisly Dad.
Pretty soon, Mom was having the Son by once a week to address all the pesky plumbing issues — the clogged kitchen sink, the illegal washing machine’s tendency to stall right after the spin cycle and the shower that kept leaking on the sweet neighbor downstairs. Eventually, Mom ran out of plumbing problems. But by then, spring had arrived with its parade of acid yellows and pure blues.
At the beach that summer, Mom handed the camera to a stranger and asked her to fire away. Dad didn’t say boo about the lighting and the resulting pictures were framed in the hallway — evidence that Mom really was part of the family.