Thursday, August 27, 2015

The incredible expanding shrinking family

While my mom was dying of cancer I took all her family pictures (years and stacks of them, gathered from all over the house) and put them in scrapbooks.  What else do you give your dying mother for  Christmas, right??  I called it blitzkrieg scrapbooking, my brother and I sorted by year and decade as fast as we could (judging sometimes by clues in the picture like cabinet style or which house or even linoleum) and then put those pictures on pages.  In the end we had 3 large volumes, two of regular pictures and one of portraits throughout the years.

It was interesting for me to look at my parents' life together in this way.  Starting with the few pictures we had of them each as children, on to pictures of their wedding day and beyond.  Seeing pictures of them with me, then that picture once my sister was born when my mom had given me the world's worst haircut ever.

(She always said she thought it was darling but I cringe every time I look at the picture and am retroactively grateful each time that she let my hair grow out again.) The next pictures show three young children,  my brother Val a curly haired pink cheeked cherub. 

None of these pictures were a surprise to me: as the oldest child I had witnessed this part of my parent's life. 

 What was surprising to me were the other pictures, the ones after I married and left home.  It was a time before frequent visits were affordable and there were easy ways to take and share pictures, and many of these pictures were new to me.  I hadn't realized that just as there was a photo history of our growing family, there was a family picture of our shrinking family; first a family picture without me, then several years later a picture without Margaret as well.  

Slowly the family shrunk just as it had grown all those years before.  

In the end there was a picture of my mom with Laila and Jeremy.


Our growing family was no surprise to me, or at least the part of it that grew in the normal way.  We, like my parents, had a series of family pictures; first with Cindy Lynn, then with Cindy Lynn and Jason, and later with Josh as well.  

Then came the big change--family pictures where is seemed everyone was holding a baby after Rachel, Jenna, and Jared were born.  

After that the only change in the pictures was their age and the amount of grey in our hair. 

I think that a part of me thought that this was how our family was always going to be.  Logically I knew that the kids would go to college, but that logical awareness must not have penetrated deeply. It caught me off guard when we began to have pictures of family activities with just the 5 younger kids, and positively startled me after Jason went to college and on his mission and we had pictures without both of the older kids. 

But that's when it really started surprising me.  Because now Cindy Lynn had married, and so sometimes we had pictures with everyone and this new family member, and then other times pictures without any of them.  In my mind I started calling it the incredible expanding contacting family.  That process has only increased in the last year with Josh at college too, leaving just the triplets at home.  And with the girls in color guard and Jared in wrestling, sometimes we have only two children at home, and sometimes only one!  Until the moment where everyone is home together again and we enjoy the expanded family once more, now expanded even more with the addition of Kate.

If I'd thought about it before, I would have anticipated the shrinking family.  But I never could have anticipated the changes in the other direction, that our family would both ebb and flow throughout the years. 

Last week was the full expansion, with Cindy Lynn and Mahon in Oregon and both boys home again on break for school.  It was wonderful to have everyone all together; loud, full house, full table.  But in a short time it will change again and within a few weeks we'll be back to our new smaller family once again, this time augmented from time to time by Cindy Lynn and her family.  

It has been interesting as I have searched through old pictures to find the ones I wanted for this post.  Because I saw something that I had forgotten in my thinking about the incredible expanding/contracting family.  What I saw was this--that as my parents' family was shrinking, a bunch of little families were forming and growing, branching off from the place that they had started.  That was us.  And now we're where they were then and it begins all over again. The endless cycle of the incredible expanding contracting family.


  1. Oh, I love these pictures. Reminds me I need to take more family pictures of my own family! The later pictures are just how I remember your family.

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