When our first child came along I became Papa Paparazzi—I photographed EVERYTHING.
For instance, when Amanda was a toddler, she was playing in the back yard and turned over a rock. She found a caboodle of creepy-crawly critters and let out a delighted squeal. I zoomed in and focused as she plucked little roly-polies, one-at-a-time, and let them crawl on her arms.
What a great photo opp! I thought, snapping pictures as fast as I could.
Then she began eating them.
I thought this was hilarious and kept on shooting. Finally, almost out of film, I cracked up laughing.
Amanda laughed too. My final photo shows her, mouth wide open, full of pulverized pill bugs.
Now, before you call CPS on me, let me point out two things. First, if you look up the species “Armadillidiida,” you’ll see that they’re harmless, carry no diseases, and are relatives of the shrimp. Second, Amanda is now 28, working in Patrick’s Point state park, and her duties include nature talks and interpretation.
So thanks to me, she speaks fluent sow-bug.
These weren’t the first pictures I took of my daughter, but they are among the most memorable. In fact, I was so excited with my child-meets-and-eats-nature photo essay, that I rushed the film to our grocery store, paying extra for one-hour processing. To kill time, I ran a few errands while I waited, all the while my mind ran wild imagining the commercial potential. Greeting cards? Posters? TV appearances?
I was going to make a killing!
I returned to gather my prize. But they missing!
I summoned the clerk. “Did you lose them!” I asked in horror.
He checked his records.
“No sir,” he showed me his clipboard. “Your wife just picked them up.”
When I returned home, Karin was sitting at the dinner table, stacks of photos before her. She was sorting them into piles—rejects to the right, baby-book snapshots to the left, and photos to mail out in the middle.
I sat down next to her and reached for my rush-order. But she shooed me away.
“I’m not done,” she said. “You’ll mess up my system.”
Then she hit my photos.
The first ones showed Amanda playing in the dirt. Karin was puzzled. “When did we take these?” she asked. Before I could answer, she flipped to the next image, where Amanda had a finger poked in her mouth. Karin held the photo up and frowned.
“Her hands are in the dirt…” Karin sighed. “Then you let suck her thumb?”
“It’s a photo essay,” I explained. “You don’t coach your models.”
Karin turned to the next picture, shaking her head. “And dirt on her face! Really?”
I shrugged. “It’s kinda cute.”
I waited for her to turn up the next photo, like a fortune-teller about to turn up the Hanged-Man Tarot card.
“What’s this?” Karin scrutinized the image.
“It’s Amanda,” I said.
“I know that,” Karin eyed me suspiciously, “but what is she doing?”
Before I could answer, Karin found a close-up that left little doubt.
“Eeewww!” Karin shuddered. “YOU LET OUR DAUGHTER EAT BUGS?”
I corrected my wife. “No. I watched her eat bugs.”
“And you didn’t STOP her?”
“Of course I did,” I protested.
She flipped through the remaining 36 three-by-five photos, her expression growing darker with each image. “After you shot an entire roll of film?”
“Hey, people around the world eat insects.”
Karin pulled one image out, held it in front of me, and tapped it with her finger.
“She has bug-parts on her lips,” Karin said, grimacing.
I nodded, and snatched the photo.
“YES! Isn’t this an amazing shot?” I studied it. “It’ll make a great greeting-card.”
Karin looked horrified.
“Not on your life,” she said, plopping the photos in the “reject” pile.
I rescued them, clutching them to my chest. “But they’re collectables!” I whined.
“All right, shutterbug,” she shook her head. “Just keep them… Out. Of. Sight.”
“Aw, come on,” I pleaded. “Have you ever seen a photo like this?”
Karin shook her head. “No, and I’d better NEVER see one like it again.”
“Or else?” I asked.
“Or else I’ll feed you to the bugs.”
So, reluctantly, I put the photos in my desk.
They’re still there today.
These weren’t the first photos of my daughter, but they did mark the start of my Candid Camera career. Karin’s my official censor. I have TONS of pictures I’d love to show you. They include:
- Bubble baths in the buff.
- Stunning, flash-in-their-faces fashion photos of our Christmas-morning attire.
- First-time bicycle rides that ended in the ditch.
- Someone who cannot-be-named scoring the winning goal… for the other team.
- Thanksgiving photos taken while people were still chewing.
- Hiking pictures featuring my family’s collective backsides.
And much, much more. The advent of digital cameras meant that I MISSED NOTHING INTERESTING.
So two or three bazillion images sit on my hard drive, making me smile, begging to be posted to Facebook, or this story.
But I can’t. Honestly. It’s a condition of my continued existence on this planet, and If I succumb to temptation….
There’s a bug out there with my name on it.