Reflections Minus Two
The photos are of two of my children, minus two (my husband and older son) during an event at the college taken of the reflection of the glass window. The older my children get, it’s hard to keep us all together as we scatter in various directions. Makes you appreciate the times you spend as a family unit. The story you are about to read is reflections on the past and why I became a photographer.
ONE photograph that encapsulates tremendous meaning to you, having a story behind it and holds profound significance for you was the photographic assignment in Photo1100 for this week. Ironic……..
Thinking creative random thoughts, where do I go with this one in two days? Considering that I appreciate nearly every blessing I have in my life because I grew up with NOTHING. Astonishing how that works out, isn’t it? Don’t you find as a “rule”: most people who grow up with nearly nothing seem to appreciate everything more as they get older? Surviving childhood without the latest gadgets, name brand clothes, gazillion dollar sneakers and having just the basic necessities was REALLY a blessing in disguise. Had you told me this concept when I was a girl: surely I would have screamed, cried, left the room stomping with a dramatic twist concluding that my life had officially ended because I didn’t have the Atari, fashion Nike’s and latest Jordash jeans. Yes, I really am THAT old! The things that hold the most meaning for me NOW are NOT THINGS, they are memories. Memories can’t be taken from you, they can’t be replaced and they are PRICELESS beyond anything you can materially own! My most profound experiences can’t be photographed, or can they?
As I was sharing a story with my class about HOW profound a photograph can affect someone or WHY it has meaning: the 19-year old girl that sits next to me asks, “What’s a Shutterbug?” A few of us ancient dinosaurs in the class chuckled lightly and my Professor takes over explaining the definition of someone called a “Shutterbug”.
Ever since I was young, I had always been considered the “Shutterbug” of my predominantly male gang. Growing up building cars, doing auto-body work, racing, riding four wheelers and motorcycles: I was the tomboy girl, who was treated more of a brother versus just a girl. I’d never cross the lines of friendship because if I let them, then I always knew in the back of my brain, I’d end up one of their horror story conquers in their sea’s of women! If you knew me, you’d know I’m a very feisty and spirited dinosaur (LOL!), they all knew I’d give them all a run for their money. How we ever survived the years of antics, I will never know. We should ALL be dead, not just him and NOT the way he died………………
After 20 years of crazy escapades, ONE of our motor-head gang of many, he was gone in the blink of an eye. Being the ONLY girl without a boyfriend in this gang (by choice), they came to me with their vulnerability. I’d developed this odd and bonding “mother hen” relationship with each one of them, each of them unique. We’d talk about whatever flavor of the month they were all working on, hours spent building motors to get the motors off our pissed parents dining room table, the nights that turned into mornings watching the sunrise (totally sober!) because we spent the evening STREET racing. The legendary cemetery, bon-fire fight, this taught me how protective they all became of me.
Young and dumb, racing as we had done a million times before. June 23, 1991, ONE fatal night nearly ended many of our lives as I, in my newly built 1979 Copper Z-28 Camaro with 350 motor, bore 30 times over, Holly 750 double pumper carb complete with Hurst shifter was racing side by side, up a very slick and rainy stretch of highway as Lady Red Light by Great White played on cassette tape, racing against Tim’s 1980 Camaro. Rich driving Tim’s car, was losing, as we knew he would since his motor failed in comparison. We were just playing around, only hitting about 90-100 mph. Being just a nose ahead, I put her to the floor and he glided slightly behind as we passed the Chenango Bridge, NY exit heading for Port Crane, NY. Whvvvooomm….. What? Rearview, NOTHING! I can hear him but I CAN’T SEE HIM… Let my foot slightly off the pedal, where did he go? BAM… My rear quarter gets tapped… SHIT!!! HYDRO PLANE picking up speed to try to knock me straight, praying that the rubber catches grip and hits the pavement to coast us to safety!!!!! OMG…. Sending me FLYING to the opposite lane…. SMASHING into the full, thick 4-foot cement rails, shooting me to the opposite side, SMASH, flying to the other side, SMASH, hood flies up…. REARVIEW… He’s back there!! BRAKES tapping!!! Slowly drifting to a halt about 250 ft. up the road from where Tim’s Camaro sits in the middle of 88: lights in the wrong direction. “Shar, Shar, Shar” screams come running up the highway. I check on my stepsister sitting next to me that I had my arm out to make sure she didn’t soar out of her seat. All OK. They get to us, doors smashed in, unable to open. Tim pulls my sister from her passenger window. Couldn’t open mine even if I tried since the cement guardrail lay against my door. Rich gets to my door, pulling me out Dukes of Hazzard style. And Jimmy, he’s up front attempting to close my hood, as I look up and against my still lit headlights, see his charming dimpled smile gleaming back at me! Because there wasn’t proper drainage under the overpass bridge of the exit we just passed, Rich had hydroplaned. The front tire grabbed the bottom edge of the cement rail and lifted them slightly off the road, as he quickly yanked the wheel to come off the rail so they didn’t flip, he slid sideways into my lane and his front end caught my rear quarter. True story and the marks from my Camaro still adorn the unyielding cement rails.
Later that night, laughing about cheating death once again, it was always about the adrenaline rush as a kid. My motor thankfully was in tact and I put the heart of her into another Z28 shell body. I wish it were that easy with people. We had no idea what was yet to come. As the years wore on, our lives significantly morphed into adulthood, priorities changed and seemingly overnight we were caught up in our children, relationships and careers. Tim supervised a full service mechanical automotive shop and on the weekends he’d turn to Pro-racing motorcycles as we all hoped he’d race amongst the greats like Angelle Seeling, which we both had met. Tim and I had several discussions about marketing, the business aspect of racing and picking up sponsors, and still calling me his “sister”. Tim found my first bike, a Suzuki Katana 750 and he lowered it to fit my short legs. His children grew up knowing me, had been to my house and we’d all hung out time to time through the years.
January 14, 1964-July 26, 2004
Within ½ an hour, I received the call. The news spread like wild fire, probably faster than it went to Tim’s own family. Tony had called Matt. Matt immediately called me. I called Barney. From there, the message went forth. Tim died just 13 years after our racing adventure in an unfortunate work related accident. We would have accepted the news of “Tim died on his bike” as that would have been what we expected knowing Tim was happy doing what he loved. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just fate. It was years later that this would come “full circle” for me, forever changing my life.
We went to the funeral; people lined the funeral home by the hundreds. I’d never attended a funeral like this before. The line literally reached beyond the front doors of the funeral home, down its stairs and lined the block with people standing in line to pay respects. The death of a small town celebrity that had touched so many lives; I stand rattled to the core of my soul in awe.
The following day we buried my “brother”, the skies were lined with grey clouds. We rode our bikes to the funeral home early. We knew what was coming. An hour and a half later, they came in droves, bike after bike after bike, resulting in HUNDREDS. It was amazing! I had never seen anything like it. I could only pray that if God calls me home, for my life to be celebrated by so many, just as Tim’s is. During the service, the harsh cold and steady rains poured from the sky. Oh how he knew I hated to ride in the rain and how against it I was, almost like he was sending down his final challenge to me “Get on that bike and ride with me one last time girl!” It rained so hard that the front pouch on my Columbia windbreaker pullover was filled with inches of water, which rendered my cell phone inoperable! We were soaked, but we all did it blocking roads and traveling behind the hearse as a bonded group honoring him as we rode with him for his very last ride. It was majestic.
In 2007, my family packed up and moved from New York to Tennessee. Years later in 2010, I received a phone call from Dara, Tim’s daughter. Shocked and elated, we caught up on the years and Dara said she was getting married in May 2011, asking me if I’d come home for the wedding. There was only one answer “YES”. We talked about the great flood in New York in 2006 and again in 2011 where Dara lost all the pictures of her dad in the flood. Dara got quiet then she said “You know how much my dad loved you, right?” Through clouded watered eyes, I respond, “I always knew.” Dara said when she received his wallet back; “There were three pictures in it. A picture of me, my brother and the last one, a picture of you.” We went on to laugh about how hard it was for me to meet all of the girlfriends because they always thought there was “something more” between Tim and I. There never was and because of that, it made us stronger lifelong friends. Dara said “I knew that, my father always called you his sister.” Dara asked me to put the word out for pictures and I would give her what I had. NOW, at this minute it has come FULL CIRCLE… I’ve known this child since she was a little girl, watched her grow up, listened to Tim tell stories about her and her brother; It rips me apart that I am here to watch her grow up, watch her kids, to care about her and share her life – but Tim is not! We are driven to tears during this conversation because her daddy is not here to walk her down the isle! I felt her pain, stabbing my heart deeply, the knife resting there. Could Tim know how he possibly changed my life, even after he was gone?
As I go through over two decades of photographs, the times we shared, I noted one thing: I had a ton of hard copy photo’s from the days of film, photos from digital of Tim, Tim with others, Tim hanging out with our motor-head gang but NOT ONE PHOTOGRAPH OF HIM AND I TOGETHER!!!! Right now, that would be PRICELESS TO ME! I passed along the photographs to his daughter, went to the elaborate and gorgeous wedding, was blessed to sit at Tim’s family table along side his mom and brother, and making more “frozen in time” memories. The venue embellished with some of my blown-up photographs I’d passed along to her, of her dad on the walls. His presence clearly felt. I whispered in Dara’s ear “If I could trade just one minute of time right now; I would gladly switch places with your father, so he could be here to tell you how proud of you that he is and how much he loves you.”
Throughout my life, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. More than any one person should ever see or be exposed to in their lives. I’ve lost more people, been exposed to death hundreds of times over, watched Cancer up close and personal take it’s toll and realized how fragile life really is. In the blink of an eye, it can all be gone and change you forever. Everything changes in life. From the time we are born, we set forth to realize ONE END RESULT, we die. It simply IS. The lives we touch along the way, is the difference we made and IS an accomplishment. Its unseen, untouchable, yet makes all the difference. There will be a day; you lose your Grandparents, your parents, your family members and close friends that are dear to you. Some will pass on, SOONER than others and when least expected. It is a fact of life and it WILL happen to you. Touch as many lives as you can. The memories you are left with far outweigh the hurt if they pass on. Group pictures are priceless, family photos are priceless and NEVER FORGET to put yourself in the shot with those you LOVE! NEVER FORGET THAT! Don’t learn the hard way like I did?! It is the BEST advice I can offer to a YOUNG photographer! You will make photographs in your life and when you reflect at some point, some of those photographs will be minus some of the people you loved dearly.
I’ve had many people approach me through the years, knowing the shutterbug that I am, ask me for photographs of their loved ones that have passed on. Between Tim’s daughter, Dara, asking me for photographs and the recent little year and a half baby girl our friends just lost (I’d taken photo’s of her since birth in the hospital), I finally realized this is what I needed to do with the rest of my life. These two experiences coming “full circle” meant the world to me and changed my life forever. I am a photographer. I document lives. How do I encapsulate this into a single photograph?
Rest in Peace my old friend Tim Davis January 14, 1964-July 26, 2004