Nothing is Ordinary

Dear Grandchildren:

I have embarked on a journey through all of the photographs I have taken of you over many, many years. I am determined to give each of you the photo stories that touch my heart every time I see them.

Even without a word of explanation, the photos I am gathering for you will remind you that Grandpa and I love you and have been nearby one way or another, all of your very special and un-ordinary lives.

It is important that I pass along to you the fact that nothing in life is “ordinary” if you pay attention. All of the “photo stories” I am using on this blog to illustrate the importance of careful photography appear to be ordinary moments when in fact they are not.

It is not ordinary to learn to whistle. It is hard. It is especially special if Grandpa was the one who taught you to whistle and in case you have forgotten all about it, I have not. There I was with my magic lens, watching you so quietly that you didn’t even think about where I was.

I knew there was nothing ordinary going on between Grandpa and Holden and I was right.

Some people might say that it was just a grasshopper but nothing about it was ordinary.

I found a container with a lid and you and Grandpa punched holes for air because although you were small, you were very smart and you knew all about air for breathing. This is one of many photographs I took that morning as you and your brother continued to hunt and in the end I watched you let your creatures go free but not in the vegetable garden.

You may wonder why I was standing out of sight with my magic lens when I heard that Grandpa was going to show you how to put in some batteries.  I knew there was nothing ordinary about that. I knew that there would be a discussion about “plus and minus”and I wondered how you would do with that.

Batteries are major treasures to a little boy. Grandpa is a patient man and you are a quick study. That means, George, that you learn quickly.

I know how un-ordinary the moment was because I was there.

Boys can’t wait to build fires.

They would build them everywhere and often if they could. Grandpa knew that you would be safer in your lives if you did things right. So, he taught you his way. Not that your Dad didn’t teach you, too, but all men believe that there is nothing the slightest bit ordinary about building a fire and that their way is the best.

As the years have passed, you have built better and better fires and no ordinary fires and Grandpa has proudly let you be entirely in charge.

Because you can snap your fingers doesn’t mean that it was easy or that you always could.

Snapping fingers takes practice. When you were small they just slid along each other but didn’t make any noise. I had a sense that there was something out-of-the-ordinary happening between the two of you. Before you know it, I heard the sound of snapping fingers and saw the moment right before my eyes.

Now, the moment is right before your eyes.

Nothing could be more ordinary than getting marshmallows on your fingers when you are roasting them.

Even the very action of wiping them off makes things better and gives you the chance to roast more of them.

Can you see Owen’s bruised face? It is a reminder of a very un-ordinary accident on Halloween that fractured his orbit into a million pieces and put him in the hospital. All he did was fall on his scooter which is ordinary, but all of the things that happened next weren’t ordinary.

This is where the guardian angels came in. They are the least ordinary of beings but so common in the lives of little people that that statement is almost not true.

People often say that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and I agree with that.

In fact, I have spent years proving it to myself and when I am gone I hope that I have proved it to you. If Grandpa and Talmage had turned to the camera and smiled, the picture would not be worth as much to me.

I feel like I sneaked up on the story.

Here is a photo story about a visit to a cemetery.

I took many photos that day that felt like paragraphs in a story and then like chapters in a book. Cemeteries give people a chance to talk about death and life after it. For children just learning to read, a cemetery is full of Papas and Mamas and children with little names.

This was also a day when Talmage gave Grandpa a new baseball cap just like his and Grandma gave Holden an apple that lasted for a couple of hours. These are among the stories that can be told from a simple photograph, taken from a little distance away if you are willing to look at things that way.


(Look for More Un-Ordinary Things)

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