I rarely take pics of myself. Let me me rephrase that. I rarely take pics of myself that are fit for general human viewing. I do in fact take copious selfies of myself on the couch, or in bed, with one of my cats sprawled around my neck like a furry scarf. There are approximately 2-3 people that I will send these to. In fact, one friend of mine and I are unofficial cat pic selfie penpals. We have an unwritten agreement that we will send each other cat selfies on a regular basis.

But there are very few photos of me standing upright, wearing shoes, hair brushed, that I would want to have framed and seen and saved for posterity. And just as few of my son and I together. I take millions of photos of him, as you would imagine, but I’m always on the other side of the lens, or the phone, more accurately.

I was just silently lamenting this fact about a month ago, and within a day I got a message from a friend, who is also a photographer, that she has had a feeling on her heart to reach out to me and offer me a photo session with my son. Don’t you love it when the universe reads your mind and hands you that thing you didn’t think you could have?

Now my friend is an amazing photographer. She owns a photography studio and has been professionally photographing people and events for years. But beyond that, she is the type of person who can see someone walking down the street, see something in them, ask to take their picture, and next thing you know have a high quality editorial photoshoot generally only seen in fashion magazines and national publications.

I can’t really remember how she and I met. I know it was online, even though she’s local. And I think our first interaction was me answering a call she put out soliciting donations for refugees resettling in our area. My son was quickly moving out of the baby/ toddler phase and into the little boy phase and I had tons of supplies that needed a home. And she had tons of homes that needed supplies. We have kept in touch over the years and I still donate whenever I’m able. She keeps an ear to the ground and is able to reach out and meet the needs of these families in ways that official rescue organizations sometimes can not.

I think my relationship with her may be the first that developed over the bond of giving to others in need. And I find it appropriate then somehow that she has in turn given me this most amazing gift. My challenge was accepting the gift gracefully. Why is accepting gifts so difficult?

We met last weekend at Ft. Monroe, inside the moat. This setting was my request as my father had two tours there when I was a child and it holds sentimental meaning in my heart. As I drove through the small tunnel that brings you into the Fort, I imagined my dad driving through there about 45 years ago, in his little powder blue Volkswagen beetle.

I don’t think he ever imagined he would have a grandson standing in the same places he stood, as he left for heaven a year before my son was born. I smiled as I watched my son, so playful like his grandpa, who insisted, absolutely insisted, on bringing a hand puppet along to the photoshoot. He doesn’t know it, but what a grandpa move that was. It brings tears to my eyes as I write this.

The photoshoot was quick. My friend is efficient and knows exactly what she is doing, what she is looking for, and exactly where to find the right tones, backgrounds and lighting. Before we knew it, we were done, only briefly interrupted by a very curious dog and his even more friendly owner, who seemed intent on hanging out with us for awhile (the owner more-so than the dog actually).

She captured my son so well, and he had fun. He’s a natural as the saying goes. I myself am not a natural, but she still managed to capture me with open eyes (a challenge) and a genuine smile. I’m sharing a few of them here, though not all, as they feel somehow sacred and very personal. She managed to catch a glimpse of not only his charming personality, but also our close relationship and how intensely protective I am of my son.

I will cherish these photos for the rest of my life. How many gifts can one say that about? Very few.

Thank you.

Stacey Salerno Photography

Fort Monroe, VA

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