Based in Central Illinois, Rachel Holden is photographer who regularly promotes women’s self-confidence through images. With an Art Therapy degree, she brings academic knowledge and off-the-charts creativity to her live-action, in-the-moment, lifestyle photos – photos that she describes as “playful, raw, and thoughtful”.
That they are.
Earlier this year, we agreed upon a collaboration project. She’d take the pictures; I’d write the story. I gave some thought to the type of shoot I wanted and finally came up with an answer: I’d go to both family farms with Miller for pictures with my grandmothers.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned that I’m thirty-three and still have both Grandmas. Not only that, they still live in their farm homes that I grew up visiting. They’re self-sufficient and still drive. It’s incredible. They’re incredible.
I’ve gotten to know them as an adult, and because of that I appreciate them more than ever before. They’ve become matriarchs. They provide insights to who I am and where I come from. They’ve experienced great pain. They’ve also led great lives.
They’re examples. They’re anchors. They’re constants. But their constancy is temporary, and I can’t think about (or even type) that fact without losing it.
…pardon me while I wipe my eyes…
Born in the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, my grandmothers fit the generalities given to their dubbed “Silent Generation”. They were girls during WWII. Given the circumstances of their childhoods, Grandma Alice is still incredibly frugal, Grandma Phyllis does not complain, and both women know how to work.
Unfitting of their generation, both women attended college (can you hear my pride in that statement?), but neither finished their degrees. As their mothers and grandmothers before them, when the time came, they did what was expected and stayed home to raise families.
I was incredibly reluctant to call them about this photo shoot. Neither women like having their pictures taken. I waited for my gut to say “it’s time”, and I called them. As reluctant as I was to ask, they were equally reluctant at my proposition. In the end, they said yes.
On a hot day in mid July, we drove down to the farms.
At Grandma Alice’s, we spent time in almost every room in the house. We went through her yarn, and she showed us her latest lap robe (she’s crocheted over ninety for local senior centers). She made iced tea (the family-favorite drink). She pulled out the Mother’s Day card I sent her for a round of laughs. I stood on her bathroom scale to show Miller the numbers, as I don’t keep one at our house (and Grandma’s always weighs light). We played with Grandma’s Floridian seashell collection and listened to “the ocean”. I took Miller to one of her fields (currently filled with soybeans). Even the good ole peach tree (which you may remember from My Someday Boobs installment) made a cameo.
When we arrived to Grandma Phyllis’ house, she’d come in from mowing only a half hour previously. (Yes, she’s in her 80s and still mows over three acres on her own at her insistence.) She had bits of grass stuck to her cheeks and stayed in her mowing clothes the entire time. As usual, Miller played with some of my dad’s childhood toys and coveted his great-grandmother’s coffee table that he’s not allowed to drive cars on. I helped Grandma with lunch (though I grew up calling the noontime meal dinner), and I sat in Grandpa’s old place at the dinner table. Afterwards, Grandma took us up the road to her father’s childhood church. She’d never taken me there before; it was her treat for the session.
These pictures offer glimpses of my past, present, and future. They show my childhood, two of my regular childhood rearers, and my child. They’re packed with memories and love. They’re irreplaceable.
As I drove my sleeping boy back to Decatur, the phrase that kept coming to mind was “show up anyway”.
The reasons not to do this shoot were aplenty.
I was two weeks and two days post-op from a major surgery. I knew I’d be sacrificing Miller’s nap time (aka my rest time) to make this shoot happen. I wasn’t about to reschedule. I paid for that decision in the short term, but my sights were set on the long term. Thank goodness I showed up anyway.
I’m growing my hair out (again!) and the sides were wonky at best, thus, the half-back top-knot thing perched on my head. I showed up anyway.
Miller hadn’t had a proper haircut in over four months. In his shaggy glory, we showed up anyway.
Grandma Alice apologized for her overgrown lawn scheduled to be mowed later that day. She showed up (and let us show up) anyway.
Grandma Phyllis gets her hair done on Fridays and was in a state about how terrible it’d look come Wednesday (the day of the shoot). She showed up anyway.
If you wait for everything to be “picture perfect”, what you’re trying to achieve might never happen. This doesn’t just apply to family photos. It applies to any creative project known to man, to work projects, to parenting, to ANYTHING. You might not feel your best, feel fully prepared, or the most capable. Show up anyway, because a less-than-perfect result is better than no result at all.
Thanks to this collaboration, I got to see something in these images I’d never noticed in person: My grandmothers’ loving glances.
Through the imperfect comes moments of perfection.
Thank goodness we all showed up anyway.
To see more of Rachel’s work, visit her website, Rachel Holden Photography.