The half-truths and lies of my photos

I cobbled together a sampling of where we went and what we did from mid-June to September first. What struck me about these images is what they don’t tell you and what I may not remember ten years from now – the temperatures, smells, and feelings behind each shot. Maybe most importantly, why the photo was taken and the context.

None of these photos will be printed and saved. It has been years since I made a photo album either digitally or the old-school method of printing and placing them in tidy chronological order. I justify this as a blessing to my children who won’t have to sift through dozens of albums after I die and toss out 99% of them because they will have no meaning to them at all.

So, kind reader, indulge me in a September wallow down recent memory lane. Below each photo you’ll find a short background story.



Kinsol Trestle Bridge, Shawnigan Lake, BC, Canada

My husband and I took our first holiday without children in June and spent a week in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. The illuminating – and slightly distressing – thing I learned is that spending 24 hours a day alone with my husband was stressful. How will we manage retirement together? Suddenly, working a few more years doesn’t seem so awful after all. Before I quit my day job, a bridge – a really big bridge – needs building, a structure for togetherness that won’t drive us to jump, or take a long walk off a short pier with stones in our pockets.


Cowichan Bay, BC, Canada

Fortunately, we can kayak together separately, like toddlers who parallel play. We recently tried a double kayak because I thought that way I wouldn’t need to paddle so hard. I sat in the front and he, being the captain and in charge of the rudder, sat in the back controlling our destination/destiny. With every stroke he splashed me and I arrived back at the dock soaked. We’ll keep our solo kayaks for the good of our marriage.


Separate kayaks for a happy marriage.


Photobombing seagull  – the elephant in the room

Such a pretty day on Granville Island in Vancouver but what you don’t see is grief. My family had gathered for a celebration. I struggle with that word in relation to death but the celebration was in honour of my niece, Klahanie – Becky to us – who died from breast cancer in May. We were in Vancouver, one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, to say goodbye.

You also don’t see love in this photo. My family members are spread across Canada – from Newfoundland to British Columbia – and though we were not close to Becky who grew up so far away from us, we wanted to be with our sister and her family to show our love.


Montreal acrobat

In July, I proposed a family getaway before our eldest daughter moved to a new city to continue her education at the end of August. We consulted at length trying to decide where to go, what to do. We all like music. I suggested the Osheaga music festival but the two hipsters among us expressed concern that we would be unwelcome due to our age. I interpreted that as they would feel too awkward hanging out with us.

Next, I found a circus festival in Montreal to which my husband replied he’d rather pummel his big toe with a hammer than watch circus performers. We finally settled on a Trevor Noah performance at the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival.

Just for laughs, my daughter invited her boyfriend and there went the last family getaway. Or maybe I should reframe that thought because he may one day be family, right? And just for laughs, as we walked around the city, we came across an acrobatic performance happening on the wall of a building. She who laughs last, laughs best. Ha, ha, ha!


Old Fort York, a War of 1812 battle site, Toronto, ON, Canada

Off we drove to Toronto at the end of July – just three of us. The two elder daughters were busy being independent young women. A vacation to Toronto with their parents did not appeal. Pfft, we said. We catered to the youngest daughter’s every whim. No negotiating required. No feelings were hurt. No one felt left out or neglected. No one lost.


My oasis

I realized a small dream after 24 years of waiting when my husband and I created this petite garden oasis in the backyard.  In this spot, I engage in woolgathering.


Bean crop

In memory of my mother, I planted Scarlet Runner beans in two tiny planters at the front of the house. The vines produce bright red flowers that attract bees and sometimes a hummingbird. My mother made “dilly beans” using scarlet runners and nothing evokes my childhood home more than the bean and the flower. I never thought the plants would yield anything growing in such tight quarters but look-y here! And there are more on the vine. I feel so agricultural. Thank you, mom.

We put our daughter on a bus to her new home last week. I thought I was okay but I’m not. I cried as the bus pulled out of the station and sobbed all the way home. I worry about everything she still has to learn, like the cost of Claritin for her allergies or how to make porridge from scratch and not Quaker’s convenient pre-packed pouches. I sat in her room, the walls bare, the bookshelves empty, and cried some more.

The next day we loaded up a white Econoline van with all her worldly goods and drove and drove and drove. We unpacked and unpacked and then slept on her couch, guests in her new abode. I felt displaced.

We comforted ourselves on the return trip with award winning butter tarts from Betty’s in Coburg, Ontario. We ignored the hollow sound of the empty van as we hurtled down the highway eating our treat.

This year, the September Labour Day weekend brings a knot to my stomach. The house feels off-kilter without our eldest. As we pulled away from her in the van, she stood with a look on her face that I interpreted as awkward sadness. She wants to feel confident but there’s uncertainty. She’s embarking on a new stage in life a long way away from her home base towards a new career and a new path twists ahead and she can’t see around the bend. She doesn’t know yet that this is normal. I do, but it doesn’t make it any easier.





38 thoughts on “The half-truths and lies of my photos

  1. You’re right. The photos tell one story – of a busy summer full of interesting activities and beautiful sights across the country … but the words underlying each image tells a very different story. A wistfulness. A vague anxiety, yet undefined. A sadness that aches for expression, but the words can only suggest its depth.
    Of course you know, this too shall pass. I used to hate it when my mother would say that to me when I felt melancholy. Now I understand the truth of it.

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  2. Wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed your trips and your thoughts on them. I love to know you are close to your extended family but very sorry you lost your niece this year.
    Loved the story of taking your daughter to school, too. My mother told me she cried all the way home from Austin after dropping me off at the University of Texas my freshman year.My dad confirmed it.

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    • The tears have continued on and off like a leaky faucet all week. I describe it like a break-up. You miss the person in their regular chair at the dinner table or you think of something you want to ask and they’re not there. Of course I could phone her but I’m also trying not to be a helicopter mom and drive her crazy with my concern.

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    • I too have made albums for the children and I know they are treasured. Interestingly, my eldest daughter often makes albums for her friends as gifts so this generation still values a photo keepsake. I’m not sure why I don’t print pictures anymore except that it seems like a lot of work sifting thru so many pictures to find the ones worthy of printing. Back in the day when you took a roll of 24 or 36 to the drug store for developing you were lucky to get half that amount good enough to put in an album. Even still, I know there are full shoeboxes in storage with photos that never made the cut. Why do we keep them?

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    • This was a post that HAD to be written as the summer was so full of highs and lows and I felt like I was living in a blender permanently stuck on high/liquefy. I needed to process all of this to try and come to terms with it.
      So funny how the kayak mention struck a chord with folks.

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  3. Hi Susanne, nice photos and the stories and children moving out – a rite of passage. Mine did 3 years ago and as the wise Pauline has said, it is lovely when they visit. Also remembered that Robert Frost said “Good fences make good neighbours” – I think sometimes partners are like neighbours and once in a while ( a virtual one) a fence does good!!

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  4. A lovely idea to capture some of the stories behind those photos – they are full of ups and downs, humour and sadness, memory and thoughts of the future – a real slice of life. Love the photo of the bridge, which leads you on to the next part of the future – I hope your wind chimes are still tinkling in your oasis.

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    • Photos never tell the whole story, do they? Several years ago I was into scrapbooking which is really just making fancy photo albums with lots of embellishment and journaling. They are truer reflections of the time but they still don’t reflect everything.

      Yes, the chimes are still tinkling and the oasis lives up its name.

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  5. I agree with your friend Osyth completely. Your writing reaches through time and takes me right back to when my girls flew the nest and so I am there with you completely – raw feelings of loss and displacement and all. And the kayak metaphor could stand proudly beside Gibran’s Prophet musing ‘On Marriage’. 🙂

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    • Daughter has been in touch today but still feeling thoroughly verklempt. I imagine it will take a while to adjust. Now I must go find Gibran’s musing “On Marriage”!


      • I understand that feeling! It takes a while to adjust – but what I have discovered is they keep coming back – and that is (mostly) most enjoyable! It’s especially the last line I was thinking of when I sent you off to find Khalil – his thoughts ‘On Children’ are of course very well known, but also may be appropriate…….


        • I just finished reading On Marriage and like this bit which seems to echo the importance of individual kayaks – “… let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” And now to read “On Children”. You are a fount of wisdom, Pauline. I truly appreciate it, especially today.

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          • Ha Susanne – I’ve had Gibran beside me since the 60’s and slowly over the decades learnt to understand and even adopt some of what he says – Both of these in particular have guided me through some rocky waters. The marriage thing of course applies to all manner of relationships in some way. I hope you found some wisdom in his thoughts on children too …….

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          • Time to go to the library and have a closer read. Thanks again, Pauline. By the way, still no light-catcher. Maybe it stopped in Hawaii for a vacation? Or living the dream of around the world in 80 days?

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          • Yes I’ve been quietly aware of its absence from your mail box – I have that sinking feeling it might be the first to have gotten ‘Lost’ …… I’ll give it to the end of this week and if I haven’t heard you have it I’ll pop another in the mail. Someone was saying to me a couple of days ago a package she sent to Canada from DC took almost 4 weeks – that’s heartening isn’t it 🙂

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  6. I wonder if you realise how delicately piercing your writing is …. the holiday on your own (snorted at the kayaking à deux and the mental note that working a while longer might not be so bad after all); felt the slight hollow in the holiday sans two elder daughters and then the killer … the grown up girl and your worries and her stoic face as you draw away and the rattling van being equally stoically ignored in the face of pie of delectable delight but surely no-where near the delight of having your daughter there. The unsaid is skillfully woven into the said. Your words echo loud with any mother who has let her chicks fly. I loved this. Sadly loved it

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