One of the best times in recent memory that I have had was driving to my aunt and uncle’s house in late June to the very teeny tiny town of Burlingame, KS and photographing their granddaughters (or my cousin’s kids, however you want to say it). It was purely on a whim and I’m glad that I made the trip. I was in town to visit my immediate family but recently have made it a point to visit other family members that live in the area. I have been absent from their lives the past five years for various reasons and as I will be forty this year, I suppose I have come to the realization that I’m probably half way through my life and cresting that proverbial hill. Family is all we really have in this world and there’s no time like the present to maintain those bonds. Besides, I belong to one of the most interesting families out there and as someone that likes to write and has an affinity for history I could not make up the things that have happened in my family and love to hear the stories of our past and get to know our present and future.
My aunt and uncle have three kids. The oldest and youngest, both girls, live in Kansas City and the middle one lives in Burlingame with his wife and their 6 year old daughter Alexandra. Being an only child with above average intelligence in a town of 1017 people seems like it would have it’s limitations but Alexandra is way into history and likes to pretend that she lives in a bygone era when wagons crossed Kansas on the Santa Fe Trail on their way out west. She has no problem doing this because Burlingame was founded in 1855 as a principle city along the Santa Fe Trail and that past is all around her. Her town is true Kansas, true prairie, and she loves to dress up in my cousins old flowery dresses and put on my aunt’s floppy hats and bonnets and run around the yard pretending she is a character out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. Sometimes she walks into town with my aunt or uncle dressed this way. I just had to see this and take some photos so when I found out that my other cousin’s 7 year old daughter Leah would be visiting too and loved to play dress up the deal was done. Burlingame is about 2 hours west of Kansas City and the drive is a peaceful jaunt through rolling hills and wheat as far as the eye can see. It had been a while since I was there and although the town has not changed much in 150 years I wanted to see how much had changed since my frequent trips there as a youth. Turns out that nothing has changed.
If there’s one thing my family does well it’s eyes. Almost all of us on my dad’s side have blue eyes but as you can see, these girls have the bluest eyes you can imagine. I had planned to spend about an hour with them but they are so imaginative and so natural in front of the camera that I spent the entire afternoon with them. If only all kids were this easy to photograph. Alexandra has the brown hair, Leah is the blonde.
Becky has one of those souls that sidles up to your own and stays there, making it matter, keeping it safe and warm. A friendship with Becky is exactly what it is and as such, requires no definition to exist. She is there exactly when you need her to be and we have meandered in and out of each others lives for the past 15 years or so, leaving with no regrets, returning with no apologies. We worked together briefly in ’97 and have maintained contact off and on ever since, staying friends. We went to the same high school but not at the same time. There is an “it takes one to know one” kind of bond between those that went to Turner High School because we are our own clan. Our school belongs to it’s own one school district and most of the families are upper lower class. The other side of the tracks surrounds us on one side and one of America’s wealthiest counties surrounds us on the other so we Turnerites never knew where it was we fit in and nobody really seemed to like us. I suppose that is our common bond and what has kept us close but Becky is the kind of person you would want to know regardless of the circumstances. I saw her on my last visit to Kansas City in April, 2011. We discovered that the last time we saw each other was at her wedding in 2004. Much has happened to both of us since then and we walked down those corridors in our mind and told each other everything over tacos. One thing that happened to Becky was her son Miles and we decided to meet up at her downtown loft while I was in town so I could meet him and take photos as we walked around downtown continuing to catch up. Miles is 4 and a total character, an old soul in the body of a boy. We hit it off immediately and the plan was for him to show me around his hood. Miles was in charge of where we went and we covered a lot of ground ending up back at their 10th floor pad on Walnut St. around dusk. Nothing compares to seeing the love that is shared between mother and child….and capturing it. There is an incredible bond between Becky and Miles and being around so much joy is never a bad thing. As I got on the elevator to go back to my life I was thankful for being a part of theirs that afternoon. And once again, Becky had made my soul smile just like she always does. The slideshows below show some of the pics from that day.