We took family photos this past weekend. Not the indoor, 'which color butcher paper background would you like', 'tilt your head forward to a twisted neck angle so the flash doesn't create a glare in your glasses', type of photo. Instead we took those neat, outdoorsy, cutesy photos families are taking these days. Everyone wears the same color scheme, hair combed, faces washed, a little makeup on Mom's face, you know, THAT type of family photo. We haven't taken a family photo in quite a few years so it was past due for a new one. The kids are getting older and will soon be out of the house in college so to preserve our family life, I planned for some picture taking, outside, everyone looking neat and spiffy, just because I wanted to. Because I'm the mom and I said so! After it was all said and done, pictures turning out better than I imagined, my husband says, "I felt like a white person taking those pictures." Gee, thanks for blowing up the whole family feel... (No offense to my white people who read this. Probably just one white person but she's my mom so she'll just laugh and then punch my husband in the mouth.)
My good friend who took the beautiful, amazing photos posted one and of course I had to copy it and put it on my Facebook page for everyone to see. Much to my surprise there were tons of Likes and Comments. Of course it was one of the pictures of my husband and I kissing and the kids either hiding their faces or looking extremely disgusted. Ew!!! Mom and Dad are k-i-s-s-i-n-g! We were a little uncomfortable with the pose but it turned out great! My husband's comment? "Man, the kava guys are gonna give me such a hard time about this one." Really? Seriously? My response, "Tell the kava guys to man up and take these kinds of cute pictures with THEIR families." Haters!
I thought about family photos and how my family didn't have one with all of us together except when we were really young. We took one when I graduated from high school and my older brother and sister were home for my graduation. But that didn't include my dad. We took a huge family photo about three years ago but that was missing my younger brother and my older brother and his son. I didn't want that to happen with us. I love documenting our life and all of its precious moments. Thank goodness for phones with built in cameras or else I would have missed 90% of our shenanigans!
In Samoa, you can't go into a family's house without seeing tons of framed pictures on the walls and shelves documenting lives from birth to death, and literally on the death part. Pictures of people's funerals. We celebrate and embrace it all! That's the beauty of our culture and that's the pride I carry with me. Gone are the days of stoic photos. Although my great-grandfather's photo with his tuiga is somewhat stoic but I can see a hint of a smile on his face. As a high chief, he probably had to have that tough guy look but was bursting at the seams to break out into a toothy smile. My grandmother's photos are mostly calm except for one where she's smiling down at me while I'm screaming my head off wearing nothing but a diaper and a Tahitian raffia skirt. She's either smiling because as soon as the photo is taken she's anticipating beating the crap out of me. But my grandmother never hit me, ever. She would cringe when my mom would spank us so no, that wasn't it. Could she have been happy that her grandchild was acting like a spoiled brat? Or did I remind her of someone or something that happened long before that photo was taken? I don't know. All I know is that I can look at photos and see her face, anytime, anywhere, and remember the good ol' days.
In the Native American Navajo tribe, they believed when someone's picture was taken, it took a piece of their soul with it. So many times you'll find them a little hesitant when asked to take photos. Maybe not the younger generation but definitely with the older folks. Our Samoan culture? We are definitely not shy people! There used to be a palagi man named Keith who lived in American Samoa and he was the local, professional photographer. At any wedding or big event, if Keith was there you knew it because his name was repeated and called out thousands of times for pictures to be taken of one group of people or another. Photogenic would be a great word to describe us. Look at all of the selfies that are posted on Facebook. No joke!
So back to our family photos. Since we live in Utah, we had some great shots in the woods and among the yellows and reds of fall leaves. We also tried some urban looks with a red brick wall and some colored doorways. All in all, it was a great experience. My hair behaved, my kids behaved, my husband behaved. The results? Photos that are worthy of hanging on the walls of the house that I hope to be purchasing very soon, displayed for any visitor to see, admire, and comment on. Although the idea and execution of taking family photos seems like a "white" thing to my husband, it is a very Samoan thing to have said pictures adorning our walls. For future reference...