So I was gardening this morning. By this, I mean that I watered some plants and looked at some seed packages and did some imagining about my garden in full bloom.
I think there may be a few steps in between holding the packages of seeds in one’s hands and enjoying the gardening prize for the city.
I decided, instead of continuing (all full-blast and whiplash like that) to go and blog.
That’s because I wanted to tell you my idea, formed while watering said plants.
And no, I didn’t say “sad” plants. I didn’t water those. Those are for photographing – which I will. I will post for you a photo of my tomato plant, which is called “Early Girl.” (An heirloom variety, not a hybrid – I’m sentimental like that, sometimes.)
I started to think about how I would post for you that Early Girl tomato photo and that’s what became the seed (ha ha – notice how thematic I am this morning!) for today’s ideas and post, an idea which in fact was germinating for a while. (Oh, I kill me!)
It’s about photos.
But before I begin, I’ll put my digression right here.
Nobody should take a photo of a baby or a child, for that matter, when the baby isn’t entirely fully clothed in something decent. I don’t care if you’re the mom or Anne Geddes, it’s not okay to snap away (and then post online somewhere) a photo of a young one in only underwear, or a diaper, or a “bikini” (you’ve got to be kidding – does anybody still wear those things? Why do we laugh at the idea of a man in a skin-tight speedo but then think the woman looks fab in the same dated so-last-decade gear? Is it because hers has two parts? A love of triangles? I don’t get it). Consider the plight of a baby or child facing that camera: he doesn’t have a choice about how he appears. He’s neither the photographer or the editor. Your job, as a mother, as a father, as the guardian in charge, is to guard the one in your charge. Be like a guardian angel (everyone has one, by the way), protecting the privacy and the dignity of those entrusted to you. Don’t be all proud and smiley that you let them take a photo of your little one undressed or distressed.
That child will grow up one day, and look at you in some dismay.
“Mom, why did you let them do that to me?”
The camera can wait. The child must be ready. Take a page from Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth II. Use her as your test (not the other one, whose soul now does rest). A true queen knows all about separating what is private from what is public.
Consider: is this clothing and pose worthy of being recorded for all posterity? Or did I snap it while the child’s eyes were askew, or when the child was in some wild-print pyjamas that will always look bad? It’s not fair and it’s not funny to snap as you like and then post it on Facebook for you and your friends to collect Like after Like. Not fair. Not funny.
No, your child will not grow up to say, “Thank you, dad, for making me look bad. Thank you, dad, you made me look stupid.”
He’ll look down at you (from his new full-grown height) and say, “What made you think I’d appreciate that? How about if I take a photo of you, toothless and drooling, and post it on Facebook now, so that my friends and I can Amuse Ourselves?” You may think it looks cute, but it won’t actually be the photo he prefers, down through the years.
So put your camera down. Pick your little one up. Wipe his nose. Softly move aside his tousled hair. If he’s in his little pyjamas, and smells like a sweet little bear, that’s – well, that’s for you. That’s a special time that you share. You don’t photograph that. You just snuggle and try to commit the moment to your memory. God will help you preserve that kind of thing in your over-loaded brain. You don’t need anything more.
(And I also now protest, for similar reasons, art work where Jesus is shown as a half-undressed baby. You can be sure that if there was one thing Our Mother Mary did perfectly well, it was to guard the privacy of the One she was given. What was the one thing the shepherds heard to describe baby Jesus? Swaddling cloths. Think on it. He was COVERED. So don’t paint it otherwise. It was the bad guys who undressed Jesus. His mother provided. She gave Him something nice, from His neck to His precious tiny feet. She wouldn’t have exposed Him – not a chance – like that. If you saw Jesus in person, you would have admired His face, His hands and His feet. His side, you wouldn’t have seen. Not until His death, when He lost everything He could lose, including His privacy. So don’t paint it so. It’s not right. It misrepresents her and it misrepresents Him. The artists have often been good and the fabric has draped and flowed just so, but it isn’t quite right. I dislike, now that I understand more than before.)
The public image that you present is, arguably, permanent. Don’t create, of your child or your niece or the child at the park, a record that wouldn’t be suitable for royalty. Don’t create a moment-by-moment record of every facial expression and every physical contortion. Save only what would be good enough to represent YOU in a professional-for-hire type of context. Imagine that your baby or child is being considered as a candidate for the presidency of the country or company or something like that. Does the child look calm, well-dressed and clean? Alright. You can use it. Post it. Share it. Fine. That’s okay, if you do it because you’re proud of your child and you think your recipients will be pleased along with you.
It drives LoyalOne crazy to go through the baby-products aisle. She is horrified to see all the images of baby used every which way, to sell products A B and C.
(That was my digression.)
So now, to begin.
I was going to say that I thought of a money-making campaign which could work for pro-life and for churches and so on. The beauty is that it would be SO fun to make and it would sell really quite well.
Make a photo calendar. Here’s what you put in it. Find, in your local parish or your local circle, some men whose work involves some kind of uniform (baker, waiter, police officer, doctor, security guard, gelato-maker, surgeon, fireman, bus driver, judge, executive in a suit, airport-security-guard-fellow, carpenter, janitor, pilot, UPS driver) and then have him hold a tiny little baby, the tinier the better. The baby will be full-dressed, of course – (see digression) and the man shall either be looking at the child or smiling at you. If his uniform has a hat, so much the better.
A different man for each page, and perhaps a different baby, if you have access to many. (Make sure the baby model is not over-worked.)
This will enthrall all the ladies, who will be the buyers of the calendars. (Men shouldn’t buy wall calendars – they just put them up in all the wrong places, for starters.)
It would enthrall, I was saying, because of the way we ladies are made. (Yes, of course I generalize! Don’t tell me you’ve noticed that just now!) After all, men — in case you didn’t know it — we ladies tend to be drawn to the idea of a uniform. There’s just something about it, we can’t figure out. A man with a purpose, a man with some clout. Something about that.
(The corollary for men is the skirt and the dress. There’s something about those things that melt a man’s heart. He can’t quite figure it out, but it affects him on some deeper level. Don’t go for skin-tight and don’t do the wide stripe – those tend to confuse – but soft and cheerful will leave him quite dazed. He won’t know what hit him. All he will know is that he thinks he just saw something called a Woman. And furthermore – there’s always a furthermore – modesty is surprisingly effective at turning heads. It makes him think he might now be noticing the ONE who was better than the rest, the one good enough for permanent, good enough to take home to meet his very own parents, good enough for him.)
So back to my calendar.
You put that purpose-filled man in direct contrast to the soft little baby, all dependent and teeny. Here are the man’s hands rather veiny and furry, and look at the baby: so smooth and so sweet. Perfect. $11.00. Or something like that. How many are you getting?
I like the idea of using the local man, and not the model-for-hire. The truth is, every man can look good, if he plays his cards right. Any man who stands as protector and defender of the weak, of the family (holding a baby) looks as dashing as anything – trust me, the women are wired to look for that kind of thing. The unmarried men in your circle would probably be the best choice, but I won’t be there to advise – you’ll be inspired if your motives are good.
(And speaking of ‘the local man’ – in my ideal Universe, players for sports teams should come from the city they were born in, or, at the very least, the city that they have claimed as their own for quite a long time. I strongly disagree with this flippity-floppity-trading-exchanging of sports players swapping cities and opportunities – bleck. It’s become a soap opera of Who-is-Now-with-Whom when it’s called ‘sports.’ Grow up. Stay put. And play your hearts out. Make your city proud.)
That’s all I was going to say.
But as for what that has to do with gardening, I’ll explain. I was thinking about all those sappy syrupy oh-so-religious-don’t-actually-inspire photo calendars and such. When they have a photo – can’t you just picture it – of a sunset and the calligraphy word “HOPE” with some quote, you want to gag. What you really need is a photo of those times when you really need hope. Give me, instead, a house hit with a tree, or a car crushed to smithereens. Then stick on the word “Hope” in curly calligraphy. (Nothing against calligraphy; I like it.) That would be funny. Kind of Far Side Gary Larson funny. (I think he’s inspired.) The idea, in other words, is that those are the situations where hope in God is actually something. “God is good. He always has a plan, even when all seems lost.” That kind of idea.
Ooh, where is that quote? Chesterton said hope isn’t really a sensible word unless it’s put into the context of a hopeless situation. (I’m so far from his exact words, I can’t even call that a paraphrase.) In other words, you get a lot less credit for your ‘hope’ when the light at the end of the tunnel is really quite bright. The credit for hoping in God goes to the one who hopes when that light is so dim it seems almost entirely gone. The credit for hoping in God goes to the one who hopes when everyone else is laughing. The credit for hoping in God goes to the one who hopes when the tomato plant looks like this.
“Early Girl” is what it’s called. (Day 14 after transplanting outside.)
“Full-blast rocket gardening” is what I call it.
I guess maybe it’s time to go water.