Being fifty-something, I’ve got a lot photographs.
Not the digital kind (though I’ve got my fair share of those, too). I mean the real shebang, The dusty old printed kind.
I’m shite at cataloguing them into albums (or frames) so they float around in boxes and tubs and tins. They have a life of their own in drawers and manila folders and assorted envelopes.
This one emerged a few days ago from a box of old treasures I was sorting. It got me thinking. It got me thinking a lot.
It was taken on a day we had invited a photographer to capture a portrait of Mr P’s broader family as a gift for his mum.
While the photographer was handy, we organised a quick sitting of our little family unit.
For me, it’s a real depiction of us at a time when we had really just developed into our own family identity.
We’d been married more than a decade. I’d learned to love (really love) beyond the confines of my own family. We’d built a home in the suburbs. I’d known the joy of bringing My Girl into the world, followed by the frustration of secondary infertility. There was a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, drug regimes, tests and more tests before Wonder Boy arrived to complete our family. To say I was grateful just doesn’t cut it. Our wider family had been touched by the sorrow of stillbirth and I appreciated this gift of new life more than ever.
In the two years before this photo was taken, we had lost both our dads to cancer. I had learned to grieve and to start growing up. I don’t think you ever really start to grow up until you lose a parent.
I had learned about hospital routines, medical interventions, surgery recoveries, survival rates and palliative care.
We had sold our new-build in the suburbs and moved to a 1970s doer-upperer on the edge of a town with a strong rural base. We were chasing space to be ourselves and a good community in which to raise our little family.
I was learning to parent, to renovate, to make a relationship work and to make decisions that were right for OUR family.
Mr P and I were doing things no one in either of our families had done before. We didn’t move far away, but it felt like new territory. We were pioneering a place just for us.
Twenty years on and we’re still thinking and doing for ourselves. We’ve swapped the almost-rural-town for a 100-year old home in the city. It’s a doer-upperer, too. We’ve already been doing it up for more than a decade!
I’ve done a lot more learning about grieving, renovating, relationship-making and decision-making. I’m still stumbling through the parenting gig (even though they’re both adults).
But in my head, I’m still the thirty-something in that photo.
When it was taken, I thought I knew it all. I thought I was all grown up.
I had no idea how far I had to go.
Or how much fun growing up would be.
Twenty years on … I still don’t.