Sisters

My two little sisters are a blessing and a curse. I have memories of their births, though some of the details get a little confused. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night and getting carried out to our old chevy pick up truck but I don’t know if my other sister was there. We never went for rides in the middle of the night, only for Christmas Eve Mass, so an outing such as this was not forgotten. The other memory I have is driving to the hospital with my dad and our cat Dax, again I don’t know if my other sister was there. This memory I think is the most important because it shows how unimportant the birth of a sister was to my child mind. We had arrived at the hospital and my mom was lying in bed. She might have been holding my new-born baby sister, or perhaps it was my dad. Then my mom had opened up a drawer, took out a box of smarties and gave me the box of treats. I was so happy about those smarties, nothing else mattered, and that is all I can remember. As a mother I can reflect on my mom’s choices during that night in the hospital so long ago, and I now understand  that I was most certainly being bribed.

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They were so cute back in the ’80s.

Our birth order certainly shaped our personalities; we were your typical trio. As the first born I always had to set an example for my little sisters, and consequently am a little tightly wound up. The middle child, Lynette, had to negotiate within the complicated power relations of our family, and is always wheeling and dealing. The youngest, Bernette, watched her older sisters make mistakes, and now has the “I’ll show them all” attitude. (I still don’t know why my parents went with the “ette”s. I could have been a really good Annette)

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Lynette preparing for our youngest sister’s wedding.

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Bernette giving me the “WTF Amanda?” look.

My sons love hearing me tell stories about my sisters and I growing up, especially the ones where there is fighting involved. I try telling them about how we played with my-little-ponies or pretended to be mermaids in the ditches near the railway tracks, but they prefer to hear about the sister fights. They like to know that we were bad kids too. Like, what kind of young girl in a fit of anger would decide to throw an empty porcelain sheep-shaped Avon perfume bottle at her sister’s head? And what kind of girls would tie up their youngest sister to a chair and then shut off the lights and leave her in the basement? Yeah, my sons love hearing about that one.

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Me and my sisters.

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I see a resemblance between my boys and my sisters when they were kids.

Being the eldest I still feel responsible for my sisters. Sometimes I wonder if my eldest son feels this for his younger brother or not? He is growing up in a very different kind of family than the one that my sisters and I had to deal with. I am providing my boys with a safe and loving environment where they don’t need to protect each other in the home. Growing up I had to watch out for my sisters all the time – the drinking brought out the worst in the adults. My mom did her best to protect us but she wasn’t always there.

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Thanksgive’r tableau.

As adults, we still act like those little girls when we get together. We love to laugh at each other. We break off into pairs, and whisper about the other sister behind her back. We talk about ex boyfriends and poke at old wounds that only we know are there. No one can hurt us like we can. My middle sister recently found out that her partner of 10 years was cheating on her. Her grief is heartbreaking but soon enough she will be back out there wheeling and dealing. Her pain is short term and nothing like the scars that us sisters have inflicted on each other. Those scars are there for us to pick at and to remind us that we are always sisters. This year my youngest sister married her partner with whom she’s been with forever, and now they are finally talking about starting a family, just for me, so I can be an aunty. Hahaha. Perhaps they will start another generation of sisters.

 

Over these years we’ve pushed and pulled each other but we know that we are sisters. We are family and we will always stand by each others sides, no matter what.

-xox your big sis, Amanda Laliberte

 

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Our children are everything.

I’ve been settled in a comfortable space within my photography world for quite awhile. I know the cameras and lenses that I like best and the way that I prefer to shoot. It all feels so safe and comfortable. But, recently I have been thinking about stepping out of my comfort zone to try a few new things.  I was even considering quitting photography and going back to school to study nursing. I have been getting mixed reactions to this idea. The best reaction was from Caroline, another Tea & Bannock contributor. We met last week for the first time to share ideas and when I told her about my vague plan of becoming a nurse, she responded with something along the lines of Oh god I hope that never happens to me. Hahaha.

What I didn’t tell her was how I liked the idea of being a maternity nurse, of being present to witness and assist in the birthing of a child. I love the idea of being able to help with that first moment that a precious new life comes into the world. But knowing me, I’d get distracted from the caregiving side of things and start noticing certain moments that I’d want to document for the family. Have you ever seen or noticed the beautiful light that is used in operating and delivery rooms? Shortly after I delivered my first son I asked my husband to pass over my camera and I started taking photos of my midwife working on me under that light. Oh, that light was beautiful even with my blood on her gown. Seeing that light has become part of who I am. So I don’t think that I could be a maternity nurse. I know that the light would distract me.

So I figure that since I love babies, why not try photographing them? Easy, right? Nope. Today I asked the mother of my son’s best friend if I could photograph her 9 day old daughter. I have never done formal newborn portraits before, and I have always been turned off by the cliche trope of hearts on bellies and the babies in baskets. I did not want to do that. So I watched a few youtube tutorials, looked at some websites, grabbed a few props and headed over to their home to try it my own way. I walked in thinking I could easily recreate the photos that I saw online but that it is not what happened. Newborn babies sleep, then they wake up, then they nurse, then they pee, then they poo and then the cycle continues. Karen was so patient and helpful with me trying to photograph her daughter. In the end we photographed her on the kitchen table, the light was perfect, and she was so patient with me.

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This wonderful little girl is Doreen Caroline Rose Mountain. Her parents are Karen Joseph and Chad Mountain. Her grandparents are Denise Nelson (Baker), Larry Joseph, Caroline Mountain,  and Charlie Cox. Her older siblings are Jasmine, Harlan and Chad Junior. Doreen is named after one of Karen’s sisters who tragically passed away 11 years ago on April 23rd. Karen texted me the following, “Her name is so special to us…well I believe my sister Doreen is giving us a reason to be happy about this month. Because even though its been 11 years now, I guess just the way she died it is still quite hurtful thinking of that call… and now we can celebrate this month.”

Well, I tried it my own way, and it worked. I went forward with only this in mind: I wanted to photograph a beautiful Indigenous child in a respectful way, and that’s what I did. Our children are everything.

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-Amanda Laliberte