The Family Home is the Family’s Heart

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Usually it is the story of the family in front of my lens. However, this time, it will be the story of the photographer. So please accept my apologies, this blog post is all about ME.

Lately I have been asked, where are you? New York or Australia? To be honest, this past month has been a little bit of a whirlwind, so perhaps I am not quite sure any more (but if you really want to know … I am back in Melbourne Australia).

In 2002, I moved from the US to Australia with my husband of 1 year. We travelled across the seas with open minds and open hearts. No plans really. We wanted to keep our jobs, find ourselves a home and then start a family. Life happened, as it does. We did most of those things … except for me keeping my job. That worked out ok in the long run and for that I am grateful.

Fast forward to 2013. 3 kids, a dog, 12 years of marriage, career change for me and one in the works for my husband. Then a trip back to New York to visit family. Fast forward 6 months, we packed our Australian home into a storage unit, said good-bye to friends and family and headed back to New York … to live an American life for a bit.

A big part of our American Life was moving back into my family home. A home the Griffiths have lived in since 1982 (when I was age 10, ironically being in 5th grade). I never thought I would move back into my family home. I never thought my family of 5 would live for 3 years out of 2 bedrooms. I never thought … but I never would change anything for the world.

I fell in love again with the home. The good things and the bad, the old and the older. I loved it all and always fought my husband when he wanted to update anything. It just didn’t seem right.

As a dreamer and photographer I fell in love with the light of the home. I fell in love with the location and the garden. I feel in love with the falling snow in winter and the deer that looked into our windows. I fell in love with the ability to walk my children into the village, even when there was a blizzard. I fell in love with having my childhood memories so close.

But the difficult part was, I was not there to stay. I was there to transition. To transition my family (immediate and extended) to their next stage in life. I will be honest, that was not easy. It kind of sucked at times. But, I am grateful I was there.

I watched the house be emptied, one item at a time. Slowly, painfully slow at times. But during these times, even though I cried, I also laughed. Not only alone, but with my family and friends. And for these moments I am forever grateful.

During our three years in New York … we had fun traveling and enjoying an American Childhood with our children … through our children. It was special. But at the same time, we also had to transition my father into a nursing home, watch his mind and health fail. Then find a home for my mother to move into. Then we had to sort through 90+ years of life, 60+ years of marriage. Then we had to do what I never thought I was strong enough to do … sell the family home.

The house did not have much furniture in it when it was time to show it. However, I did make sure we put up the Christmas tree one more time. I did this for my own family and for the family who would next call this place home. It was very important to me. I wanted them to know, although the house was empty … as a home, it came with a big heart.

The house sold on the first day. I don’t know why I was surprised, it is a pretty special place. However, I do have to admit, I was very very sad. There really is not enough time to ever prepare one for this part of life. Especially if you are a sentimental person like me.

For the people who don’t know the history of this family, you probably are wondering why I am writing this story. Well, Amanda’s family is the family who saw the Christmas tree the kids and I decorated one last time. The house that peeks through these images, is the place I called home for 35 years.

When Amanda asked me to photograph her family, I knew it was something I had to do. It was something I wanted to do. As they walked me through their home, my former home, it became clear why this was the case. Suddenly the pain of leaving our family home was erased. It was no longer our home … it was their home. And WOW, what a beautiful home they have turned it into. I know my parents would love it .. down to the wine refrigerator in the kitchen.

Our family will always be part of the history of this home. But Amanda’s family is the future. I seriously could not be happier they found this house. And this sounds funny … but I could tell the house was happy too. I really think it longed for young children and big family parties once again!

For those who don’t like change (I don’t really much care for change) remember, a home is only a home when the people you love are there with you. Otherwise it is merely a building or someone’s house.

As I write this post, I am reminded to always BLOOM WHERE WE ARE PLANTED. Don’t dwell too much on the past, or worry too much about what is to come … but love in the today and all that it brings you. Don’t forget to look for the good that life brings you when you are least expecting it! And finally, hold onto the joyous times and quietly let go of (but always respect) the others.

Amanda, thank you so much for this opportunity. Not only to get to know your family a bit better and to capture this time for you all, but for the closure, I needed, but didn’t realize I needed. And yes, next time I am in town … I will join you for that drink on the back porch 

I will always treasure the photos I took of my family in these very spots and I hope you too will always treasure your family images too.

Love,

Gray