Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Evening finds me with a warm cup of tea in my hands and Country Living magazine in my lap. Inside was something I must share with you.  An American Family: Three Decades with the McGarveys, a new book of photography. I'll let Country Living do the describing:

In 1977 Pam Spaulding, a photographer for Louisville, Kentucky's Courier-Journal, set out to document a year in the life of a new mother: local resident Judy McGarvey, 26, who had just given birth to son David.  But after 12 months, Spaulding couldn't bring herself to abandon the project.  Instead, she spent the next three decades chronicling the lives of Judy; her husband, John; David; and as time went on, his younger siblings, Morgan and Sara.  During those 30 years, Spaulding captured the family's major milestones as well as numerous small, everyday moments, like backseat roughhousing and goofy dances in the kitchen.  From her first shot of newborn David in the hospital to her photo of Sara's 21st birthday celebration, Spaulding's modest, moving images tell the McGarveys' unscripted story--and a more universal one, about unconditional love and what happily ever after really looks like. --Katy McColl
I wish I could show some of the photos to you here, but the tiny thumbnails on the internet don't do them justice.  Soon I'll have to go seek out the book, but the magazine photos I saw tonight brought tears to my eyes for all the ways they reminded me of my own childhood.  Parents kissing at the sink with leftovers and dirty dishes strewn on the counters; a father dressed in a suit, looking down at his newborn; that same child, now grown, home from the air force, surprising his father as he walks in from the car one afternoon; brothers helping their little sister blow out the candle on her 1st birthday cake, and those same brothers handing her beers in a bar on her 21st birthday.  The most moving are the juxtapositions like those, of which there are so many: the mother helping her daughter into her 4th birthday party dress and years later the girl modeling a prom dress for her mom; the little boy grasping his grandfather's hand as they walk onto a little league baseball field, and then, as a grown man, helping his grandfather climb some steps on a family vacation.

These are the moments that I'm always trying to capture when I'm writing, whether a character is actually experiencing them or is longing for them.  The little moments are ever more telling than the big ones--they're the little scenes that live forever in our minds and come to represent the way we remember our lives and all of the important people who populate them.  Sometimes the smallest memory, of a parent, a sibling, a friend can swell our hearts too big to bear as we remember how much we loved them in that moment or perhaps even realize that at the time we took it for granted.  When I'm writing, things always work their way back to love.  My characters are always questioning both the kind they give and the kind they receive.  Love is the reason a character suffers or leaves, resents or sacrifices, flourishes or fails.  All of the human stories are the ripples from this one human feeling.

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