The Last First

There are 14 years between Sally’s first and her last and it’s been almost as long since she experienced sending her first baby to kindergarten. Each of those experiences hold their own emotions and memories, but in some ways I feel that they’re the same.

I drove to this house this morning as the sun was coming up. I arrived approximately 10 minutes after the sun peeked over the hills of Morgantown. The house was dark and quite when I arrived and all three children were still in bed, her bed, with magic glitter under their pillows. Sally’s oldest, the first-first, is a college student now, so he wasn’t home. His presence was missed on this day; the day the last first would start her journey as a student in kindergarten.

I don’t take it lightly when a completely stranger reaches out to me to tell their story. It’s a scary thing to be vulnerable with someone you’ve never met. It’s even more uncomfortable to allow that stranger into your home with a camera to document your life exactly as is. I never truly know how a client feels about meeting me for the first time, but I can imagine there is always a level of anxiety involved. That anxiety coupled with the feelings of sending your last of four children to kindergarten has to be overwhelming, but Sally didn’t show it. In some ways, the task of getting three children ready for school may of been just the distraction she needed to ignore the fact that I was in her house with a camera in my hand the minute they rolled out of bed.

I have been photographing first day of school sessions since I stepped out of the classroom two years ago. It’s been the one thing that has kept me tied to my love of teaching. Being able to see the story from this point of view has been eye-opening and beautiful. Each family has taught me something different about family and time. Each discussion I’ve had at 7am with a mom on the day she is sending her baby to kindergarten have been teaching moments for me. My job isn’t just a job to me. It has way more to do with emotions and memories on both sides than you may ever realize. I always take something with me when I leave. It is my hope that each family has gained something from me as well.