Last Christmas, my family awoke to presents under the decorated tree, full stockings hung by the chimney, and the smell of cinnamon coming from the kitchen. A light snow coated our yard in white while James Taylor’s holiday album played softly through the stereo. I can say with confidence that it was the most festive birthday party for Christ that any Jewish family has ever thrown.
When my mom called us over for breakfast, we gathered around the table just in time to see the still steaming, syrup coated, french toast placed directly in front of my brother, father, and I. Before we could thank Jesus for the delicious feast, we lunged for the food with our forks out, ready to stab.
“Wait!” My mom yelled. We froze. She surveyed the scene of three starving men in their pajamas about to tear into a holiday treat like cavemen ripping open the belly of a boar. “I have to get a picture first.”
She went into the other room to grab her good camera. Our eyes never left the food. It was like somebody hit the pause button on our kitchen. But what else could we do? Inspiration had struck my mother and that inner desire to create needed to be fulfilled. Over the past few years this has been a common occurrence in the Licht household.
Like that one time my dad, brother, and I were swimming at a beach on the Cape. We were up to our waists in the ocean, horsing around in the waves.
“Do another underwater handstand!” My mom shouted from the shore. “I missed the last one.”
I still had water in my ears from our last trick, but we dunked ourselves over and over until my mom got the perfect shot. This meant holding my breath for longer and longer durations. It was worth it when we saw the picture in its finished form; but at the time it was like Ansel Adams meets water boarding.
My mom’s photography skills began to develop several Christmases before we almost murdered her over French toast. It was a Nikon or a Canon, I believe. My dad had it perfectly wrapped under the Chanukah Bush for when she got up. I didn’t think twice about it. My mom is difficult to shop for and I imagined it would be a few months before the camera started collecting dust in the closet next to the bread maker we got her a few years before. My mom got a few months out of the bread maker at least, filling our family with delicious carbs every chance she could before she got bored. In the end, we were lucky she didn’t develop a passion for baking sourdough rolls, otherwise her next Christmas gift would have had to be an aerial spy camera for family portraits.
In the end it was photography that won the heart of my mother and she took to it much faster than any of us could have expected. She started seeing inspiration in every flower, bug, bird, cup of coffee, sunset, and passerby on the street. She started taking nature walks, morning drives, and afternoon trips into the city to see what should could capture. And there was always something to capture. There were times we caught her in the yard snapping shots of a single dandelion for hours. I like to think I inherited my mom’s appreciation for the beauty of daily life, and that this is reflected in my writing. She shows this love through photographs of the moment a bee gracefully lands on a flower and I write about pooping my pants.
In order to share her pictures, my mom took to social media, amassing over 800 followers on her blog faster than I could say, “How the hell are you doing that?” Then she started getting recognition from other well known bloggers and selling her pictures faster than I could say, “No, but seriously, how are you doing that?”. Yet, in spite of my jealousy over my popular mom, she has still managed to be an incredible source of inspiration.
To see someone twice as old as me with a sense of wonder so fresh. To still see that fire in someone with an amount of life experience that usually keeps people grounded in a comfortable routine. It gives me hope that learning, discovering and creating don’t end once your children have grown.
“Now don’t move.” My mom demanded when she returned to the kitchen with her camera around her neck.
The steam from the toast was beginning to fade and my fork was starting to tremble as a response to my inner diabetic panic attack
“Please hurry.” I begged.
At the time, my appreciation was clouded by my love for food. It wasn’t until seeing the photograph on her blog later that I began to reflect on the moment and truly see the beauty in it. And it wasn’t until now that I was able to try to describe this beauty on paper, hoping that my humorous twist on the festive occasion is half as amazing as what my mom saw through the lens that Christmas morning.
You can read my mom’s blog at lichtyears.com