The Fourth


It all started the Independence Day of his fourth year. He still had the roundness of his babyhood, mispronounced the letter f, and fit squarely in my lap.

We were out back as the last bit of light slipped away, when I noticed it. The way his hands, small and dirty, held the popper. I dialed my ISO way up, and began to shoot.

This was the night I became my own artist. The evening I threw out the rules, and fell in love with documenting life as I saw it. Grain and all.

It continued. Each Fourth of July since, I've waited, with bated breath for *just* the right light. You know, when twilight whispers, but the stars aren't quite there.

That's when I shoot it. A series that's grown in my heart, just as my small boy has grown towards a man.

Each year holds a memory. Some are shot with Nikon, one is film, there's even an iPhone portrait. This year was Canon.

It doesn't matter really, because I'm curating a series that holds my heart like a life vest.

And there have been years I've needed it to keep afloat.

This year, I placed him between myself and the sinking sun. Handed him a small popper. Dialed my ISO up and brought my aperture down. Composed my image. Shot. One, two, five clicks of the shutter.

And we went about our night.

A bit later as I scrolled through the images I began to notice something: man, I thought, that popper looks small in his hands.

"Can we try this again, bud?" I asked, knowing he wouldn't be thrilled.

Much to my surprise I looked up and he was smiling, grabbing something else, a bigger firework. One he planned to help his dad with.

It hit me. He's no longer a small boy, holding a small popper.

No. He's ready to hold the big stuff.

And so, in the end, I would use this imagery to tell the story of the year I came to understand him. To accept, that, my tiny boy isn't so tiny after all.

But oh, how I love him so.

To my son: thank you for this gift. For going along with this crazy notion your mama has. Thank you for seven more years of this. I try not to weep at the thought of how you'll continue to grow, and change.

My hope is that one day, when you're a man with children of your own, you'll remember the sunset of each Independence Day - your sappy artist of a mother, that simply wanted to hold onto each bit of your childhood. One popper (or, ahem, firework) at a time.