Me and all of mine - A Family Portrait Project August
I think I am in denial. I'm still in flip flops (oh yes even in the rather nippy dew first thing in the morning) and I have barely looked at a pair of trousers for almost 8 weeks. For me, this is the endless summer and I am not remotely ready to admit it's September.
So much so that I have squeezed every last minute out of the school holidays and have found it incredibly hard to open the laptop for anything other than work that absolutely can't wait - Christmas photography deadlines wait for no holiday! You know that feeling when you have so much to say and so many photos you'd like to share that it feels totally overwhelming? Yep that's been my problem this week.
Out of the 4 weeks of August I've been home for just one of them. August has been a month of conquering fears, challenging my parenting skills and realising how much I needed to reconnect with my boys. I had totally underestimated just how much they were craving that illusive quality time we all talk about and rolls off the tongue but with busy lives often gets forgotten about. That I thought I was giving them my attention when really I had become so distracted. There's too much I want to share about my solo trip to Spain so instead I want to share this week, or rather almost two weeks ago it's taken that long to upload and write. We've been down in Southbourne at my grandparents old flat by the sea with all my favourites, I've taken hundreds of photos of the cousins scampering on the beach, toes running in and out of the waves and sentimental snaps of our famous 5. My brother, sister in law and baby niece flew back to England for the first time since she was born and at last my mum had all 5 of her grandchildren in the same place.
It's been a haze of happy memories and noise. 2 babies, one preschooler and two school boys and all of us trying to make the most of every second, knowing that it will be almost exactly a year before we all see each other again. And I just haven't stopped to write. But I really want to record this time and it's a wonderful thing having a blog that our rabble will be able to read one day and as this is the second month in a row I've been behind on my monthly Me and Mine post I'll be kicked out of the gang if I'm not careful! But I think this is the best excuse, to have sat in the evenings clinking glasses, playing games, watching old episodes of our favourite tv shows and ticking off a couple of things on my 35 before 35 bucket list. Ok the Fifty Shades film wasn't as bad as I have been led to believe and I could have easily picked up the second book to find out what happens next.
These posts are probably the most precious I write and without the team of bloggers who prompt this monthly round up I know my blog would be worse off without them. Family life feels so full at the moment, the boys, especially Ollie, have changed so much in the last 12 months since starting school and documenting a snap shot each month gives me the freedom to indulge in sharing my love for my family. Not just my unit of four but for the others who make up this passionate and fiercely loyal gang.
It's always an intense experience when we welcome the American contingent home. As much as we say we won't build it up, it's impossible. You could almost hear trumpets sounding their arrival on the gravel when they finally battled through the A303 traffic at Stonehenge and the boys screamed at the top of their voices "They are here! They are here!" and ran to the car barefoot. We spent a magical day in our garden and unbelievably I didn't take a single photo of us all. Not even the one I'd been planning for months of the 5 cousins down at the rickety pond gate to recreate each year. Literally the moment we all packed the cars and headed to Southbourne on Saturday morning I physically exclaimed with a comedy gasp "Oh no! We didn't get them all down at the bottom of the gate!" But for once I was truly in a moment.
I know it must read like I'm wearing rose tinted glasses but it really was just perfect that day. We lollopped. On the sofas, in the garden, on a picnic rug and took it in turns to drift from side to side in the swinging chair under a tree, rocking each of the babies in turn. We ate until we popped and didn't leave the house all day. Yesterday my brother sent me a couple of videos he'd taken and it couldn't have been more of a traditional English summer day. I must have watched them ten times over and although now I kind of wish I'd picked up the camera, even just handful of times, for once I didn't bombard them all with a big lens. Of course that all changed when we got to the seaside...!
These 5 are reliving our childhood. They play the same games by the groynes, they eat the same picnic at the hut. They even use the same towels we drag out of the tiny cupboard in the downstairs bedroom in our upside down flat. The concrete 60's block is nothing special to look at but it's so special to me.
We eat the same food as we did 20 years ago, we pack up the pushchair and wagon and drag bags full of picnic, bottles of bubbly and plastic cups and plates that we've washed from the day before. We literally need nothing else. In all honesty we could easily spend an entire week at the beach hut.
I treasure this time with my sister and her family and I know that having Pat and Carlotta and Juliette is an added bonus. It might not happen every year, so we absolutely make the most of the time we have. It's boisterous, intense, boils over and I wouldn't change it. I look at my mum and think I hope I am as lucky as she is in a couple of decades time, to have children who are best friends, and grandchildren who adore each other.
I've used the same word over and over this summer. Glorious. For the simple food we've cooked down at the hut (ok we never need to see another sausage ever again) for the views from the zig zag path and for the sights we have seen. Children running, in brilliant sunshine, sunsets that make you race outside armed with your camera.
I've lived more of this summer than ever before. I know this post is full of cheesy smiles, looking at the camera but I love it. Because I lived all the in-between moments. I'd usher everyone into a photo and then the camera would get shoved in a sandy bag at the back of the hut.
I have less photos than I'd normally take but I have the ones that matter the most. The ones I've already rushed to print and frame and will wrap and send to my mum as a thank you for being such a support to all of us.
You only need one photo. Your me and mine photo.
So again there's a few more in my Me and Mine photo than just the Heaths. But they are all of mine. People who see me at my best and worst, who I can be myself with, who know my secrets, help me when I'm vulnerable, encourage me when I'm doubtful and who I support just the same. They are my friends as well as my family and if I had to choose people to spend time with it would be them. I miss them so much this morning it gives me a gentle ache in my chest.
But the best thing is that even if it's a whole year until the next time, there will be a next time.
August - I couldn't have packed more into you if I tried!