March 5, 2014

Only 500 Pictures: How Choices Changed my Vacation

Once upon a time I went to Disneyworld with just one child.  I took a thousand pictures.  I took pictures of every attraction, inside and out.  It was during the height of my scrapbooking phase and documenting literally everything was the order of business.  And, while I still love taking pictures, I learned something really important when I stopped “shooting” my life for my scrapbooks.

It’s so much easier to live without the camera.

The day before my trip, I unloaded every picture off of my iPhone and onto my computer to make sure I’d have space for the thousand pictures I, once again, intended to take.  ON the drive to Orlando, I took pictures of State signs and the sun as it set over the mountains.


When we arrived into South Carolina, my eyes were overwhelmed. That state is so dear to Big Daddy and me and I hit the state with my phone gripped in my hand, intending on taking pictures of the palm trees and the glimpses of the tidal marshess. I framed a picture, but I didn’t click the shutter. I let my phone drift into my lap. I let my eyes take it in. I watched the trees as they streaked by and the coastal birds wading in the marshes. I took deep breaths of the air as I streamed in through the sun roof. The air in coastal Carolina smells different than anyplace in the world. It smells piney and clear. It smells like spring almost all of the time. But, this isn’t about the low country (even though things are often about the low country).

I realized that I had one shot at this trip; that I have one time to see this vacation through the eyes of my little girls as they took it all in for the very first time. I could jockey for position to get the perfect shots of their little faces or…I could close the camera, push the phone into my pocket and watch.

And that’s exactly what I did. Instead of standing in front of Big Daddy, trying to get the picture picture of Baby Bee watching the fireworks on his shoulders, I watched the fireworks. I would peek forward and see the way their faces lit up and I never worried once about how I could photograph that in the low light of firework bursts. On the final day, I pushed the stroller into Main Street just as Elsa hit the castle during the Castle Show. I turned Littlebit forward just in time for her to see Elsa sing out, encouraging her to let it go. I got teary eyes as Littlebit’s voice wobbled to meet Elsa’s as she sang her favorite song, but the camera stayed safe inside my pocket.

I didn’t even get a picture of our family in front of the castle. It’s true, but what I did get to see was Baby Bee’s desire to hug Mickey Mouse override her shyness. I took a few pictures, of course, but I watched their faces. I watched what was around me. I saw the rides and the shows and the people and MY people without having my camera pushed against my eye.

Maybe, when I look back, I’ll regret not taking more pictures. Maybe, but a picture couldn’t really tell the story of what it looked like when Baby Bee pushed forward from her sisters to hug Mickey first. A picture won’t capture the way Littlebit roared to get chosen to play the Beast or the way the Princess’s eyes shone with tears on our last day.

I chose to be present and involved in a way I hadn’t done in a very long time. It was liberating.

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