When I do speaking engagements, I play a game with this photo. I ask the audience what they see
Play along: What do you see?
Without fail, get words like:
But the story is so much more than those words. The story is something you’d never see from the photograph if you didn’t have my words with it.
My daughter, Kendall, was 16 months old when we moved into the house we thought was our forever home.
She’d call out for me and patiently wait—always greeting me with a big smile with her little head and neck reaching wayyyy out of her bed to see me at the first possible second I came up the stairs.
Here’s a photo of that moment, just for fun:
Pretty quickly after moving in, we removed the crib rail and she was in a toddler bed. The funny thing was, even though she had free range, she wouldn’t get out of the bed when she woke up.
She’d still call out for me and patiently wait.
I’d go in her room and we’d walk to the top of the stairs. She hadn’t had any stair practice yet, so I’d carry her down… but I have to slow down the story for you to really understand the sweetness in this routine.
When we’d get to the top of the stairs (coming from her room), she’d wait at the top while I stepped down a couple steps. I’d turn around, scoop her off, and down we went.
One day, I noticed she was getting longer. Her little arms and legs were reaching around me further than before and the thought of a monkey on its momma’s back, the way they cling on, popped into my head.
So, the next time I was down a couple steps and turned to scoop her up, I said, “Monkey up.”
She leaped into my arms the way she always did and then I said,
“You’re like a little monkey. What does a monkey say?”
And she replied, “Ooooh oooh ahhh ahhh.”
And from that moment on, we did that every day. Multiple times a day, actually.
I don’t remember the last time we did that, but I was fortunate to get a photograph that triggers the memory. My parents were visiting and my mom came upstairs to get Kendall with me after a nap. I shared the story with her as Kendall “Monkey’d up” on my mom.
I said, “Kendall, what does a monkey say?”
And she replied with a big smile to my mom, “Ooooh ooh ahhh ahhh.”
As I tried to find the words to describe how this story impacted me, tears filled my eyes.
It was me witnessing this tiny girl, that I love so fiercely, have complete trust in me.
She trusted that when she’d call out to me, I would come.
She trusted that I wasn’t turning my back to leave her, but that I’d stop a couple steps down and scoop her up.
When she leapt into my arms, she trusted I wouldn’t let her fall.
As her mom, I hope that she always trusts me this deeply and unguarded.
So, yes, the photograph is about:
But, those words feel like they’re downplaying the story. It’s not a one-off moment of love. It’s a tangible, predictable story we lived out over a long period of time—a story that truly shaped our relationship and that aged in my heart before the photo was even made.
What stories have aged in your heart that you’re still living out today?
And then, for the love of all the good in your life, go preserve that in some way.
Savor it, then preserve it.
And then, write about it. Tell the story. If you think documenting is therapeutic, expressing the story is nothing short of cathartic.
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