Courtney asked me if I would consider photographing her “large and loud” family at one of their gatherings. She didn’t want “anything posed and formal, just looking to capture her special family moments and interactions.” Well basically I screamed “YES” over our online messaging. She was speaking my language for sure. While I was so excited that it just fit into my schedule before we headed out of town for our super-secret Thanksgiving surprise for our boys, she was keeping this a secret from most of her family. I managed to arrive a bit early (earlier than Courtney), rang the doorbell and was greated by one of the most hospitable families I have ever met. Nana invited me in from the gloomy rain. She was not at all alarmed that an extra guest whom she had never met had just showed up to participate in her family’s Thanksgiving. She introduced me to everyone else, I was handed a cup and a Sharpie marker to put claim on my own drink, and then was engaged in conversation with people I have never met before. How in the world was that interaction not awkward? I just showed up to their Thanksgiving dinner. A complete stranger! Courtney’s cute niece let me know she was in on the surprise. We giggled as everyone continued to welcome me as “Courtney’s neighbor.” Then Courtney arrived. As they gathered together, hand in hand to introduce new friends, family, a new fiancé, and then say the blessing, Courtney revealed that in fact I was her neighbor. And while I did have my own cup and was told to eat probably a dozen times, I was there to photograph their family. To capture this special time for them. A lot has changed for them in the last several months, the loss of a precious Papa, and Courtney wanted to remind them of the blessing that family is.
Nana let me know what a wonderful man her husband was. I believe it too. The way this family gathers often to celebrate each other, it is evident that they were led by example. Nana and Papa are leaving a legacy to their children, testifying to the importance of family, of community, and of opening their doors and arms to anyone who shows up on their front step.