The hardest pictures to get were ones of all eight of us together. And it got harder over time for the simple reason that our four older children had better things to do than hang out with the parents!
During the twelve years that we were eight, after Alex was born, we only had four taken successfully. One is above. Of the other three of the eight of us, one is in the Header of most of the pages on this site, and the others are below.
There were several reasons for this relative paucity of collective photos.
First, we were all, young and old, pretty busy in our respective ways. My work was typically very time-consuming. The children had hobbies like judo or soccer first, and then sleepovers whenever they could.
Looking after the troupe when they were younger was itself pretty time-consuming. That’s an understatement: if you have two or three children, you know how busy you can be. When you have more, the older ones eventually begin sharing the caring. But that process takes a while! And in the meantime, it’s all up to the parents.
As the four older children grew older (we hesitated to say “mature:” while they were still living with us, it always felt a little early for that!), we spent less time all together. It used to be that every weekend we’d eat dinner out all together at least once, and every weeknight we’d all sit down to dine together.
But over time these occasions became fewer and fewer and further and further apart: birthdays, Thanksgiving and the like.
Even vacations together became rarer as the older children sought out their peers or the other parent for most of their vacations. Perfectly natural, of course, but it took me a very long time to adjust. Years later, I still haven’t!
Only through living through something similar was I finally able to understand why my own mum and dad were so upset about my moving out of 18 South View Road and then, much worse, emigrating to the US. Understanding reveals the secret, from the parents’ point of view, which is to be grateful for what you have at each stage in the family’s evolution. And were we ever grateful!
In fact, the children were pretty cooperative about being photographed. I was always a bit obsessive about taking pictures of them. Not all the time, but I never forgot Paul Simon’s Bookends: “I have a photograph. Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.” Not that I agree that photos are all that’s left. But they are definitely more valuable as you get older.
Charlie and Alex both sulked for the above ski picture near Truckee, which made no sense because they both had the time of their lives skiing. Was it perhaps because we made them take a break from the slopes for the photograph? What can we do?! That was a classic problem for me. I’d want to capture whatever fun we were all having. One or other of the children would see no point at all in taking time out from having that fun for the picture!
Summer holidays were particularly frustrating for the photographer seeking group photos. Each pair of older children spent several weeks with Pierre (Daphné and Alban) or Sunshine (Nick and Tom). As a result, I don’t think that the eight of us had a summer vacation together after our Florida trip in 2000.
Our household briefly enlarged when Nick and Tom rejoined us in the summer of 1999. Marie-Hélène had understandably adjusted after her two years of managing just four little ones, and the prospect of two more, one already a teenager, raised issues. I was working like a dog at Wilson Sonsini, and would obviously not be much help with the children.
Enter Amélie, who moved into our in-law cottage (also referred to as the studio) for the ensuing school year. A French graduate student who spoke very good English, she was invaluable at keeping the children all on track, particularly with their homework. She also helped Marie-Hélène feel at home, by having another French woman living with her. They had more than a common language, and Amélie was missed in Santa Cruz when, inevitably she moved on. Here’s another shot of her with her copine Camille.
For a brief period (but long enough to feature in Tom’s birthday picture, above) while Nick was away for his first independent trip to Europe, his old friend Valentin stayed with us. Valentin was actually the brother of a girl in Nick’s Parisian crèche parentale, la Porte Entr’Ouverte,
For my birthday in late 2005, the heathen throngs gathered for a now rare dinner at home together. You can see in the photo that by this time it already wasn’t worth pushing them to do what they didn’t want to do.Both these last two photos on this page were taken in our breakfast nook at home, adorned with grand-père’s photos of Bretagne.
Sad to say, there may never be any more photos of the eight of us. Thomas left our blended family at the end of 2007, and didn’t come back to California until after Marie-Hélène and I had separated in 2010. That’s the key reason for the absence of group photos going forward: our beautiful blended family is no more. I miss our moments all eight together, but hey, we do have the photographs!