Telling Stories | Written & Illustrated / by Annemie Tonken

In case you hadn't noticed, I took a bit of an impromptu blogging sabbatical over the last week or two... it's been a rather intense time, personally & professionally, so I appreciate your (assumed) patience with me. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of the personal narrative, specifically the fact that while we each travel a unique path in life, we are also not alone... our experiences overlap, intersect, and run parallel to those of countless others, many of whom we'll never know, more like a complex web than a series of disparate strands. And like a web, as diaphanous as it might seem, that network of experience is capable of supporting great weight. I think that it is for this reason that we are so drawn to hearing others' narratives. We love finding those points of affinity that affirm our interconnectedness: they hold the promise of understanding, of alliance, and at times of difficulty or indecision can give insight on how to make our way forward.

Part of what has me thinking about all of this is the official launch of Written & Illustrated, my new offering to both portrait and wedding clients, which is scheduled for the end of this week. Photographs are such a powerful way to communicate our stories, but they rarely tell the whole story... so I designed Written & Illustrated as a way to fill in the gaps. I can't wait to share the first of my W&I clients' stories with you, but last night I ran across the journal I kept when I was pregnant with Judah, flipped to the last page (written shortly after he was born), and felt inspired to share. To me, this is a perfect example of exactly why it is so important to record our stories as they happen: though I wrote this just two and a half years ago, it seems light-years gone - in a different phase, a different career trajectory, and at the very outset of my relationship with the small person who is now my wild, impetuous, and very independent toddler. Reading it floods my senses in the best possible way, reminds me of where we were and how far we've come, and will hopefully do the same for him, or even someone else entirely, someday.

1/23/10

Happy belated New Year, sweet 12 week-old baby Judah. I'm lying in bed writing this with you beside me, wiggling around in your little pea pod sleeper, contentedly watching me.

Judah, you are an angel. I would never have dared to dream of such a sweet, easy baby - like setting one's sights on the lottery - but here you are. You started smiling so early, at five weeks even, and are now like a new and beautiful lamp in the house, shining brighter with every gummy grin and delighted coo. To date, there has not been one night - ONE - where you've kept me up. Other than a feeding here and there, you sleep soundly from 11 - 8:30. In your miraculously blue eyes, there is wisdom, and joy at the littlest of things. In the rare instance that you do cry, you are immediately soothed when we hold you, and if we sing, you are fascinated.

So you see why it is that I'm so sad tonight: tomorrow I go back to work, and our brief honeymoon will come to an end. I am so very, very sad to leave you - not that I don't think that Daddy or Ashley can care for you, but because I will miss the soft petal of your cheek and the impossible curl of your eyelashes for twelve hours a day, three days a week. Moreover, it is the first of so many - too many - goodbyes. With you and Oliver, I feel my life can never be long enough to get my fill.

Sweet, sweet dreams, my sweet, sweet baby. I love you completely.

Carrboro_Newborn_Photographer

Mommy