Being asked to take photos again for this family was an honor in and of itself, but this family is special in many ways. They moved to our neighborhood about six years ago, and they have felt like life-long friends since. Sadly, they moved away a few years ago for a job opportunity and to be closer to family. The connection is real and so strong, we pick up right where we left off when they return each year to visit, sometimes with kids, and to the kids’ dismay, sometimes without. My friend Karie, who made a pact with me that we would never get a dog, (you can imagine how that turned out), even named her dog Eagan after our town. So everyday she has a visible reminder of us!
This family is affectionately called, “The Jackson Six Pack”, and we love each of their kids deeply and only on occasion mix up their names. I mean there are four of them, five if you count their dog, that have names that start with the letter E! That’s right, Emery, Eli, Elese, Eliot and Eagan! The house they moved out of still feels like their home, even after all these years. It was one of the driveways that always had kids and toys everywhere, a hub of activity and fun.
Karie was one of those moms who had lots of fun ideas or traditions, some we still carry-on today: like back-to-school breakfast get-togethers, last day-of-school water balloon fights, the Kentucky Derby party, and the Bachelor or Bachelorette viewing parties. She was one of the ones to ask for recipes, redesigning on a dime, and was known as the potty-training whisperer. Scott was always the one up for anything and gives the best sidearm hugs. Did you know that is a thing? You’d know if you ever received one from him. I never thought of it till I got one from him. I don’t know how he can make you feel like you’re getting a bearhug with just the sidearm hug. If he walks up to you with a twinkle in his eye and asks, “What’s going on”, it means you’re in for some fun and laughs. We just hope he doesn’t get injured in the process. I wish I had a picture of him on his scooter, getting around neighborhood gatherings, after he ruptured his achilles tendon playing backyard volleyball. I don’t think we’ve played backyard volleyball since, not that it’s his fault. I think we just all realized we may be getting older and need less injury-prone activities! Emery is the oldest, and I fondly remember all the neighborhood variety shows she helped coordinate. At any and all get-togethers, the younger girls always put together an elaborate show, of dancing, singing, tumbling, etc. To put this into perspective, we moved into a brand-new development, and we were all excited to get to know one another, so we had A LOT of get-togethers, hence A LOT of variety/talent shows! I’m disappointed the girls didn’t put one on this last visit. She is growing up so fast, and probably heard 100 times how much she looks like her mom now. It is definitely a compliment! Eli is all boy! He loves to hunt, fish, camp, anything to do with the outdoors. When he first moved to MN, Karie commented on how he suddenly decided he had to wear everything Under Armour, as did all the boys around here. But I definitely noticed a change when he moved back to his home state of KY. You can find him in boots just as easily as sneakers, and definitely more camo mixed in with his athletic wear. Elese is the quiet leader, the girl who loves clothes, and still changes outfits six times a day, and genuinely appreciates anything you give her, new or old. Emery told me how bold and commanding she can be, especially if she feels like it’s something obvious and others need to be pushed along. It’ll be interesting when Emery brings home her first boyfriend. I don’t think Elese will keep her opinions to herself! Lol! She may look shy and unassuming, as in the soft gentle smiles you will see in this blog. But when asked by her mom after this session to smile with her teeth for her cell phone pic, Elese informed her it was her “soft smile, and her best smile”. Well…I have no idea where she got that term or idea! Then there is Eliot, the youngest and not so little baby of the family. Even though he’s grown up so much, I will always remember him with his blanket rubbing the sleepiness from his eyes after a nap. He was the best snuggler and always seemed to have one or all of his siblings looking out for him. But look at that mohawk! I don’t think he needs them looking out for him anymore, although I’m sure they still do. He has the most infectious smile and quiet confidence. He loves the outdoors too, like his brother, and also loves sports. And even though he’s gotten so big and sporting that mohawk, rumor has it he’s still a fan of naps. I wonder if he still has his special blanket?
Do you see why I love this family so much, and how special they are? But I haven’t even gotten to explaining why this session is a full circle moment, and why them asking me to take their family photos again was so special to me. Karie was the first person to ask me to take her family photos, to which I replied, “Why?” I’m not kidding! I had an entry-level DSLR camera that I shot in auto mode, and had no idea how to edit photos. I knew nothing about lighting, posing, natural interactions or feedback on outfit choices or locations. So I gave myself a quick tutorial on using manual mode, and showed up to their house to take photos in front of their Christmas tree and out on their deck. Do you know where I’m going with this story, Scott? It was Karie who had the family coordinated in complimentary outfits, the string of lights to use as a prop in front of the tree, and fake snow to blow outside toward my camera. I was the one who didn’t realize plugging the lights in before I had them wrapped up and posed in front of the tree could possibly burn them, who positioned them on their deck facing the wind so the fake snow blew back in some of their faces and eyes, (not naming names, Scott). I also was the one who had the cutest picture of them all dog-piled on one another, only to realize my settings were still set for when the lights were turned off, and I totally blew out all the highlights and couldn’t recover the photo! It’s still the photo I regret losing the most.
And she asked me to take her family photos the following year! Why?! Karie saw something in me, in the way I captured certain moments, the way I interacted with families, and the joy I had in sharing my photos with others, even before I did. She was the first to put the idea in my head. And even if I never saw it as a viable business before she moved away, it was enough of an idea that pushed me to learn and grow. It’s become a business I’m proud of, and I’m so happy and grateful I had this opportunity to take their photos again on their visit.
Scott and Karie, you guys have such a strong and beautiful family. You guys live and love fully, and handle life’s obstacles with grace and humor. I hope these photos reflect a little of that. And I also hope you look at these photos and think, “I can’t believe it’s the same photographer who made us blow snow in our faces!” So if I can make you think that, then this will be a full circle moment for me in my photography journey. Thank you, I’m so grateful to you, and miss you already! Till next time!