A year ago today, my husband returned from Afghanistan and was reunited with our son Isaac, then 3, and met our newborn, Aaron.
In that moment, I faced a familiar struggle: Be in the moment or document the moment?
Logistics won out, at least at first. After Judah stepped off the bus, I hung back with Aaron and let Isaac be the first to welcome his dad home. Holding the baby, I couldn’t really handle the camera, so I just stood there and soaked it in as the two of them apprised each other and then hugged.
Then Judah and I locked eyes and I said something silly like, “I have someone I’d like you to meet.” I handed Aaron to Judah and just watched them look at each other. Aaron, nearly 10 weeks old, gazed at his dad, then started crying. Despite my best efforts, the bus had arrived at mealtime. I passed over a bottle and let Judah take over feeding duties for a few minutes until Aaron calmed down. He didn’t want to let go, and besides, it was his turn.
Then, hands unexpectedly free, I just couldn’t resist documenting the scene that was unfolding before me and committed a few images to my memory card, not just my memory.
Isaac ran around my legs as I captured the picture of Judah in uniform, nuzzling Aaron’s forehead, with Aaron giving a tiny, contented smile.
It’s probably the most meaningful photograph I’ve taken to date, which made me realize that for me, documenting the moment is part of being in the moment. It adds to the experience; it doesn’t distract, doesn’t detract. The lesson instead is that when I can’t manage the camera, I will be there completely and take it all in, rather than worrying about missing the shot.
I might not have a canvas print of Judah and Isaac’s reunion, but it’s seared on my memory all the same.
Note: Adapted from a draft of this essay.