Maybe Means Probably Not
Lucy turned 10 last week and my dad gave her a digital camera.
“Sorry, mom,” Lucy said, “But this is WAY BETTER than anything you gave me.”
True enough. But for reasons Lucy is too young to appreciate.
Lucy has been dying for a camera for years. Every so often, she swipes mine, and I find it full of strange photos she’s taken throughout the house: blurry shots of her bed, cockeyed portraits that are mostly nostril and missing teeth, close-ups of her stuffed dog’s plastic eyeball.
More often than not, she’s also manhandled the lens, so everything appears behind a glaze of her grubby fingerprints.
All of which is why I haven’t wanted to get her a camera. What would I do with all these pictures? And what if she lost the camera?
I was seven when I got my first camera—also a gift from my dad. It was an Argus that shot oddly shaped bricks of film, and I carried it everywhere with me in its brown leather case, looking for photographs I could take.
You had to be choosy back then, because you only had 16 shots on a roll of film, and Mom had to take it to the drive-in Fotomat to get developed, and she didn’t want to pay for junk.
Even so, I took some terrible photos—tiny sandpipers in an exhibit at the aquarium, crookedly composed portraits of my brothers and sisters lying in the grass with their chins in their hands, my cat dolled up in one of my old baby dresses.
I also lost the camera when we were on vacation in Williamsburg. We were visiting a hilly Civil War battle site and I thought it would be fun to run up and down the slopes at top speed. I fell and skinned my chin and nose, and accidentally left the camera behind.
In a way, it’s a good thing that I’d also commandeered the hotel key, because some kind stranger found it and returned both the camera and the key to us.
Had I not fallen on my face, I might’ve forgotten that trip. And I might have forgotten that kids do take crazy photos and want to hold hotel keys that they cannot be trusted to hold. And had my dad not given Lucy a camera, I might’ve missed out on some of the shots she’s taken as a 10-year-old, photos that are technically terrible but full of something more important: her view of the world.
I love the shots of Alice jumping on the couch. I love the shots they took in the dark, just to see what they could catch with the flash. I love the picture of Alice brushing her teeth. And I love the one of Lucy striking a model pose.
My oldest child is 10, and to her, the world is a place where she is discovering her own beauty. It’s a world where she wants to be able to see in the dark. A world where everyday things, like brushing your teeth, are interesting. And a world where, even though it’s against the rules of the house, you can still use the couch for flying practice.
As adults, we get so hung up on doing things right—on focusing the lens, on framing the right shots, on making sure everyone is smiling. And I’m not talking about only photography. The adult view of the world shears off most of its wild and fascinating edges.
And as my oldest child turns 10, I’m thankful that she’s reminded me there’s another way of looking at things. In every way possible, I’m loving the view.
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