The photo I didn’t take

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life60 Comments

Last Sunday just before lunch, Coleman is sitting up at the kitchen counter, struggling with some math homework that to be honest with you, neither me nor Dan are really all that qualified to offer any help on.

I mean, come on—we were journalism majors.

Enter Aidan Zielske, a girl whose most excellent math skills did not come from my side of the family, and for some reason she seems to understand reasons why x equals y, or why two trains can leave the station and arrive at different times.

Cole was working on mean, median and mode problems, and Aidan stepped up to offer her help.

I sat there at the kitchen table, where both Dan and I were immersed in various online/computer tasks (me, watching the live feed of the New York City marathon on my iPad; he looking through email and planning his week ahead on his MacBook.)

As I watched Aidan leaning into Cole, helping him to understand the problems he was working, I gently kicked Dan's shin from underneath the table, and nodded for him to look at the two of them together, working. I mouthed the word, "Adorable." He smiled at them warmly, and nodded.

I thought, "I should go get my camera before this moment is gone," but then I decided to just let the moment live and be, and that I would commit it to my occasionally less-than-trustworthy memory.

It is the photo I didn't take that's now hopefully tucked into a small corner of my collective memory.

I hope it remains, so I can pull it out in the years to come, to recall the sibling kindness, the genuine concern of one helping the other, and the genuine appreciation of being on the receiving end of that help. I hope I can see them in my mind's eye, at 15 and 12, when the size difference was still pronounced, but the bond that sometimes gets a bit hazy in their present era seemed to offer a brief but distinct shine.

I don't always need to regret the ones that got away when I have words instead of pixels.


What about you? What are some of the photos you didn't take? How have you committed them to your collective memory?

Cathy ZielskeThe photo I didn’t take

60 Comments on “The photo I didn’t take”

  1. #1

    Love that story. I did a page like that awhile ago, just writing down random things stories I wanted to remember that I didn’t have a picture to go along with. It reminds me, like you said, sometimes you just have to live in the moment and let it be.

  2. #2

    So sweet! I bet that will be just one of many times that the future holds for them being there for one another. I know my brother, sister and myself had our moments growing up but now we get along great! The moment I want to committ to memory right now is when my 15 month old son gives me unsolicited love and kisses!

  3. #3

    This will be a special memory for sure! I love that you just absorbed the moment and then recorded it in words later. There are a lot of times that I want to visually document the relationship between my daughter and son but for some funny reason, as soon as they camera is out and they are aware that I am taking pictures, the moment is gone. It is a good reminder to sometimes just live it and record it later.

  4. #7
    Veronica Zwiers

    my forty something memory fails me every now and then…. but not near as much as it did when the boys I call mine were younger. having four bambinos in two and a half years left my brain in a state of $/:&:&:&/$:,&/ To be totally honest….. I have no recollection whatsoever of the first two years of the final kiddos’ lives. If it weren’t for pictures I would have no memories at all from 1995-1997. So, I guess I am the opposit. I am not trusting my memory to keep those special moments. the kiddo’s have taken them all away and I will remain totally dependent on the camera.

  5. #8

    And *this* is exactly why we must journal – must tell the story. Yes – a picture will remind us of an event … but, after a too short while, may end up just being a trigger of the event. The WORDS will evoke the sensory …the emotion … as well as the event.
    And, I think, this is also why we need to put the camera down. Experience the emotion. Be present and actively involved. Create the heartfelt memory rather than merely document the event and create an artifact!

  6. #9

    Wish there was a photo that captured the look on my Grandmothers face EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. she met us at her back door. The look that said, “I’m so glad you are here.” even if she just saw us the day before. . .

  7. #10

    Oh Connie, me too. I only have one photograph of my gran and I loved her to bits. But, I have the memories.

    Cathy, in answer to a photo I didn’t take, it was of dolphins. I went sailing in the Med and all of a sudden a pod of dolphins came alongside. My camera was below deck and had i rushed to get it, I would have missed them. So glad I didn’t.

  8. #11

    So tell the story without the photo – just scrap this post. Then if your memory fails, you can always remind yourself by reading the page. It’s not always about the pictures. I think I learned that from one of my BPS classes (a teacher with the initials “CZ”).

  9. #12

    Veronica, please tell me there were some twins in there! Whew! : ) You should get a massage and a free house cleaning. ; )

  10. #17

    Well, yeah. But the quality of the shots on iPad 2, well… lets just say its not the best. But honestly, it didnt even cross my mind.


  11. #18
    Katrina Kennedy

    You know I love a good photo of a moment, but sometimes the moment matters more. I kick myself often over choosing to run upstairs for my camera as my son read his first book to us. By the time I returned he was done. I missed the moment and the photo. Lesson learned.

  12. #20
    Jennifer Levin

    I rely on my camera for the exact reason that I don’t trust myself to remember even a few of those tender moments. But I love this. I love the reminder to live in the moment, to let things be. I appreciate this gentle and wonderful suggestion that using my words, and words alone, can be memory enough. ~jen

    P.S. This is why I love visiting here every day! Most days I smile, and some days I cackle, and sometimes, like today, I tear up (in a good way) over how well you capture your feelings and emotions of the moment in words. Thank you!

  13. #21

    I have a lot of moments of my son doing something – where I didn’t have the camera, but sometimes – as you said – the moment was more important than running to get the camera and destroying the moment. I’ve missed a lot of “gee, wish I could’ve photographed that” photos but sometimes the WORDS and LIVING the moment is more important that capturing it on film. [Besides, sometimes creating a scrapbook page without a photo is a fun challenge!]

  14. #22
    Melissa Crosby

    My kids are 11 and 14, and my son recently helped my daughter with the exact same math work. I had never heard of mode, as a math term. (Or, if I did, I promptly forgot!)

  15. #23
    Deonne Beron

    Not one moment or photo, but at my wedding recently, it was hard to contemplate not taking photos myself and relying on friends and the photographer we hired to do the work. I’ve been sitting on pins and needles fretting about all the shots that might have gotten away, but in retrospect, I realize that the day was gone in a flash as it was and if I lived one more of those beautiful moments instead of just snapping photos all day, I’m probably better off and my photo averse husband probably loves me even more for doing it.

  16. #24
    Martha S.

    Just a few weeks ago I had to sell raffle tickets for my son’s school’s Halloween carnival. We were out next to the church selling (Catholic school!) and my 8 y/o randomly went up to me and planted a big, fat, juicy (LOL – slimy is a better word…) KISS on my cheek. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I closed my eyes, feeling the warm sun on my face, and just plain ENJOYED it.

    But then I made him do it again and I got a picture with my iPhone. I don’t trust my memory! And I’m not in the pictures often enough so I *had* to have that moment on film errr… on digi errr… you know what I mean!

    I most definitely like the idea of just letting a moment be and then journaling about it afterwards. I’ll have to keep this in mind!

    Oh and BTW, what a sweet story of your kiddos. Makes me wish mine wasn’t an only child. 🙁

  17. #27

    Earlier this summer I had put my daughter to bed and then went out into the yard to see my husband. It was not quite fully dark and the back yard was full of fireflies. I went back inside and got G. out of bed, telling her I had a fun surprise. She caught a firefly and watched its light, then flew through the hazy light in utter bliss. It was the most perfect moment of the whole summer. There was no way to photograph it and if I’d gone back in for the camera, I’d have missed being in the moment. I wrote this down and put it on a scrapbook page with Graphic 45 fairies on a background of dark blue with stars from October Afternoon. 🙂

  18. #31

    what a beautiful not-taken-picture!!
    i had a special no-picture moment just yesterday… i was running on the trails, struggling up the hill, it was snowing and cold, all of a sudden a group of about 8 large deer cross my path about 1/4 mile ahead of me, stopping briefly and staring at me, then moving on.. i guess they smelled me. never before have i seen deer there, what a special reward for a tough run! aaah. priceless.

  19. #33
    Amy Cannon

    How awesome!!!!
    I remember when my oldest starting to read out loud….. I didn’t want to ruin the moment and get my camera; I just sat and stared and teary eyed watching the miracles that happen! Thanks for the post!!!

  20. #34

    You painted the picture with your words. Just lovely.

    Yes, I love photos, but being present is just as important. Sometimes, even when I am holding my camera, I put it down, so I can just be there.

  21. #35
    Julie Mitchell

    It’s happened many times for us here. It’s one of those times that you wish you could make time stop. My boys are also very good to each other. You’ve done good mom!

  22. #40

    Love that! The clicking camera would likely have ruined the moment.

    My unphotographed moment happened a few weeks ago. We went to my son’s Marching Band competition. It was a crucial competition, which determined if they moved on to a Tournament of Bands Championship event. I took pics of my son’s band’s performance and totally missed the whole thing, with the exception of what was in my camera lens.

    When the exhibition band, WVU, came on the field I left my camera in the bag. This was a once in a lifetime event. They were all kinds of awesome. I’m so happy that I decided to live in the moment for that performance.

    The boy’s band made it the the Tournament of Bands Championship. It was my last opportunity to see them perform this particular show. Having learned previously, I lived in the moment & captured that amazing performance in my memory.

  23. #41

    I think it was one of Stacy Julian’s children who said “A memory is when your heart takes a picture”. I think your heart has taken the picture here, and the record of it on your blog is as good as any photo!

  24. #43

    Another great post, thank you! For me, I don’t think there is a photo I regret not getting, it’s always that I wish I’d written more of those moments and stories down – proof again of the importance of journalling.. 🙂

  25. #44

    I wish I could put them into words quite as eloquently and expressive as you do. Occasionally I jot them down, but they seem to get lost amongst the other ‘memorabilia’ of life. Perhaps I need to try and write (type) them as if I’m telling a stranger…… (typing is soooo much quicker than writing!)….

  26. #45

    I have tears in my eyes right now and know exactly how you feel. There so many moments with my kids too that aren’t recorded by the photo but tucked away in my heart to remember. I love moments like this, it gets me thru the bad days.

    Sometimes I write these stories down in my PL/on my blog/ in my journal just to have them written in case my memory gets too foggy later on.

    Thanks for sharing this with us and good job Aidan on helping her brother and knowing so much about math. We can’t help our kids much either on this subject.

  27. #49

    I type far better than I write. Ive noticed that for myself. And I also take time when I write, to edit my words, and rethink how I want to say something. : )

  28. #50

    Cathy, you could scrap this moment w/o pictures..a quick but important “365” moment to remember! As a person who crossed the Age 50 line,

  29. #51

    I had to laugh when I read your post because I was the same with my kids. Luckily my oldest twin was a math geek and helped his brother too.

    The memory that I captured mentally was seeing the birth of my grandson. It felt weird not to photograph it…but that would have been invasive. In fact I didn’t take any pictures until the nurse asked if anybody was going to. I just sat in wonder for a while afterwards:D

  30. #52

    I came into scrapbooking through the back door so to speak. . . .I wanted to reorganize my children’s childhood photos. There were some in order, some not dated, some in boxes. . . it was a daunting task but one I finished. From there I branched out to creating other books. So having no photos for events is a reality for me since my children were young in the era of print film and we didn’t take photos as abundantly and easily as we do today. I think today’s children will have clearer memories of their childhood because they have the story plus they have the photo; think of things from your childhood that you can remember and think how much clearer some details would be IF you had a photo. All that said, there are moments that we need to soak up and not be distracted by taking the photo. I think you made the right choice . . . you won’t forget the moment.

    on a Halloween note: as a SF Giants fan LOVE that Cole and his friend were Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson for Halloween! Go Giants 🙂

  31. #54
    Nicole L.

    Yes, is one of my most very favorite blogs. Seems like something you’d dig too, Cathy.

  32. #57

    Last two were twins. No time for a massage or house cleaning. I was doing my Bachelors of Education back then when I had all the kiddos.

  33. #58
    Carmel Keane

    At our wedding we chose not to have a video done (all the rage but not feasible in our venue and (I felt) too intrusive). What we did get was an audio recording of the service! The words my brother spoke in his sermon – the sound of my own voice soaring as I sang every song we had chosen – listening to our vows. To just listen and not be distracted by all the visuals is an amazing experience!

  34. #59
    Carmel Keane

    I often choose just to enjoy the moment – particularly school plays etc. Often I find it hard to really enjoy the whole experience when just limited by a viewfinder and often the photos or video are not great quality anyway!

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