By Stephanie Kepke Kaplan, Boys, Dogs And Chaos
In my second Mitzvah Diary post, I shared that compiling the guest list was the biggest party planning challenge for me. I take it back – the montage is now my official Everest. A friend of mine warned me to start looking for pictures six months in advance; it’s that difficult to amass just the right assortment of snapshots. And honestly, that’s not surprising – how does one possibly compress thirteen years worth of memories into just ten minutes of video?
I have well over one hundred and fifty pictures right now and I know I need to winnow it down to one hundred. I’ve already done my fair share of winnowing – I have spent hours going through the literally hundreds and hundreds of packets of photos I have stored in stacked flowered boxes. Remember, thirteen years ago, none of us had digital cameras. In fact, I didn’t get a decent digital camera – one that I used exclusively, not just as a novelty, until my third son was born. It will be a breeze to collect his montage pictures – just click and drag. Not so for my son, D. And, being that he was my first child, I was in full on paparazzi mode – documenting everything from his first cry (well, my husband took that picture) to his first coo to his first potty foray. That’s a lot of pictures – I narrowed it down from about sixty five to twenty six from his first year. But, that means a quarter of the montage will be D’s babyhood. I can already hear D’s friends yawning, not to mention D. whining about baby pictures crowding out baseball pictures.
It’s not just baby pictures that are hard to curate – I scanned in sixty three pictures from birth to age five and then got to work on the digital pictures. I now have a folder on my desktop with probably another hundred pictures from age six and up. Everything seems necessary and yet the montage can’t be half an hour long. With four weeks to go, I need to edit out the fat and do it quickly. My wonderful (patient) niece has agreed to put together the montage and I promised to deliver the pictures well in advance. Well, we’ve passed well in advance and we’re creeping up on, “OK, I need it now or it won’t get done.”
Part of the difficulty in accomplishing this task is that I’ve lingered on each picture – reminiscing about easier times before everything was a battle. I used to think that toddlerhood and all of the defiance that went along with it – the constant chorus of “no’s;” the declarations of, “I do it mysef!;” the tantrums when it was time to leave the playground – was the hardest thing that I would ever face as a parent. More seasoned parents would shake their heads at my frustration and say, “Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.” But, I didn’t believe them. Now, I understand. D. acts like he hates me most of the time. He’s always embarrassed of me and often tells me I’m neurotic. I know it’s the age. I know that deep down he really loves me, but it still stings.
Looking at the pictures of him from infancy on up, I am reminded of how completely attached to me he was. I remember so clearly what it was like for him to fall asleep on my shoulder – for that to be the only place he would sleep for what seemed like an eternity. I am reminded of the time I caught the flu from him when he was a toddler and he cried hysterically until I dragged myself into his room, feverish and shaking, to rock him on his chair, because no one else – not daddy, not grandma – would do. There is the picture of him sitting on my lap at 10 years old – our annual birthday hug – his head on my shoulder, a huge grin on his face. Three short years later, he is more than a head taller than I am, his face has taken on the angular proportions of an almost man and his patience for me often wears thin. That is why combing through these pictures is such a gift and why narrowing down the choices is close to impossible. But, narrow the choices I must, so I have stayed up every night until the wee hours, trying to decide what belongs up on that flat screen during the party.
The criteria I’ve come up with: if the picture seems like it would interest someone other than me, it stays. If I find it completely captivating, but to anyone else it would just be a run of the mill shot of a cute baby or a sweet boy grinning, then out it goes. Some of the images that have made it so far – in addition to holiday shots, birthday party shots and baseball shots, there are many of my dad and D. (if you read my last post, then you know that my father passed away in the spring and that one of the ways we plan to honor him is by featuring him in the montage), as well as pictures of D. playing the drums, from babyhood on. My husband, Jeff, was a drummer in a band when D. was a baby and he often played acoustic sets at Borders. D. loved coming with me and banging on the drums when the show was over. He is an amazing drummer now and I think it will be fun for everyone to see his progression on (and obsession with) the drums over the years – from those Borders shows to his toddler days banging on a plastic marching drum to his elementary school years behind the skins to a short video of his solo at the last school concert.
I still have several more pictures to cut (at least fifty), but I’m on the road to a short (no more than ten minutes) montage that will hopefully keep everyone engaged and entertained, even if I cry bittersweet tears right through it.
About Stephanie Kepke Kaplan
Stephanie Kepke Kaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. Before kids she was an arts reporter, covering the Boston music and cultural scene (even though she is a born and bred Long Islander, she lived in Boston for nine years and her first son was born there). Now, she blogs at Boys, Dogs and Chaos (about life with – you guessed it – three boys and two dogs) and Mitzvah Mom. She is also working on a novel about a PTA mom. She has also written for Long Island Parent magazine.