The most popular space in our home is not the living room, kitchen or kids’ rooms, it’s actually the hallway between our rooms…but it has nothing to do with the layout of our home. Filled with a wall of canvas images of our family, this hallway is the memory bank for our family. It’s a daily occurrence to find my children staring at and pointing to one or more of the images. Lately I’ve begun to realize this wall has become a confidence-builder for both my young kids and, at the same time, has taught me an incredible amount about how to communicate with them.
Three years ago, we moved cities, uprooting our lives in search of a home where we could have more land for my husband’s workshop and great neighbourhood for the kids. We bought a run-down rancher, and what began as somewhat of a cosmetic enhancement turned into a massive gut job for the small home. As we began to put the house back together after a year of renovations, complete with a new kitchen and floors (and an extra bedroom for our unanticipated little one), I found myself dreaming of some fabulous artwork for the walls; however, we had run over budget on the renovations and any extra dollars we could spare were being put away for an upcoming vacation. Despite this, I knew I wanted some memorable pieces on our walls. I was working for Fairmont Hotels at this time and had heard of a local startup called Flytographer. It seemed like the perfect solution: we could capture our family’s vacation in Hawaii in lieu of our usual studio portraits, and thereby create imagery for our freshly painted walls.
Shortly after we returned from our vacation, I ordered a series of canvas prints of our dreamy shoot in Kona. Our Flytographers, Sandra and Kris, photographed our family frolicking on the beach and perfectly captured the fun-loving spirit of our family. I figured this was going to fulfill that desire for art on the walls until we could afford something fabulous.
What happened from that moment on has changed and moved our family to an extent I couldn’t have imagined. I ordered eight canvases with our photos from Hawaii. The kids were instantly glued to them, constantly touching the pieces. At first, I was frustrated with their jammy fingerprints on the images, but even after I taught them about the importance of not physically touching the pictures, the novelty didn’t wear off for them. Each day I’d find them staring wide-eyed at the pictures, pointing out the visual memory of Liam’s effort to stack blocks on the beach, Daddy’s jumping skills or Mom and Mackenzie’s beach swing. They loved these images so much, we found older pictures taken when Liam was born and some of Mackenzie’s birth shots and had them printed on canvas. I was amazed at their interaction with each other and the photos. Their ability to pick out the smallest of details and recollect events in each photo surprised and delighted me, as I had dismissed them as being too young to remember these times. Soon I began to realize each child appeared uplifted after engaging with the images. I marvelled at the change I saw in them each day, and made me wonder about the profound impact photos have on self-image.
I discovered some research that proved the effect of having family photographs displayed in the home creates a greater level of confidence and sense of belonging with children. Part of the socialization process includes learning who you are and where you fit into the family, and when children see themselves in these images they recognize that we are making a public statement that we are proud of them.
The photo wall continues to be the key focal point in our home. A tearful meltdown or two have been averted with trips to the wall to remind the kids of where we’ve been, how smart they are, and the strength of our family. Every moment in each photo has been relived and retold a thousand times over and – on occasion – reimagined. I’ve also learned a thing or two, that these images are a daily reminder that each moment we live is fleeting. Life seems to slow down in that hallway. And as they grow up, I find myself becoming more mindful of the simplest of moments with my kids – whether on a beautiful vacation in Hawaii or on a small hallway stopover on the way to bedtime. The fancy artwork? We forgot about that, but the canvas wall is almost full and I’m eyeing up the next blank space … to be filled with more of our future memory-makers.
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