A few months ago, I asked the kids a question.
“Would y’all like to be on a billboard?”
Ali’s eyes lit up. “YES! That would be AWESOME!!”
Noah’s brow creased. “NO. They’re way too high. I might fall.”
I had been working here and there with a local company, Alabama Outdoors, with regards to my sunset photography and whatnot, and we had discussed a photo shoot with the kids, hence my question – because one should never agree for their kids to do something without first making sure said kids weren’t violently opposed to the concept. But the details didn’t work out, and so I didn’t bring it up again.
But Ali didn’t forget. She doesn’t forget much. And she continued questioning me about why I had asked that question and when she might get to be on a billboard. A yearning had been opened up within her – a seed turning into a blossom that, before that random question, she wasn’t even aware existed.
She NEEDED to be on a billboard. It became a driving force in her life – a dream that had to come true for her to be able to continue living a fulfilled existence.
(Because being on a blog is not nearly as exciting as seeing yourself fourteen feet tall and hovering over a freeway.)
I finally explained to her about Alabama Outdoors, and that perhaps one day I could make her dream come true. And also, she might have more of a chance of attaining said dream if she were wearing an Alabama Outdoors shirt.
All of a sudden, she wanted to wear her shirt on all of our hikes and sunset walks,
And was quite amenable to sitting still and letting me take as many pictures of her as I desired.
She even started suggesting poses – sometimes rather wild ones.
She became a walking billboard for Alabama Outdoors in her attempt to get on an Alabama Outdoors billboard. The girl doesn’t shy away from her goals.
After a month or two of Ali wearing her shirt everywhere, my friend Tyler, the Alabama Outdoors creative genius who I’d been working with, asked me to see if I could get him a Father’s Day shot on one of our family hikes. He gave me a basic idea of what he was looking for, and I decided the ideal place for our shoot was Ruffner Mountain.
He wanted one of the kids wearing their Alabama Outdoors shirt, and in an ironic twist of fate, I chose Noah. (His wasn’t quite as well-worn, after all.)
I let Chris and the kids hike ahead of me, and I shot them continuously throughout the walk.
At one point I was sure Noah was giving himself Poison Ivy to spite me.
We took the ENO hammock (that we had rightfully bought at Alabama Outdoors) to the top and set it up, in the attempt to capture a loving Daddy/kid moment.
Ali was especially agreeable and Noah was…meh.
Some of the photos did show my lack of proper staging – Noah’s socks were wonky and crooked, Ali’s socks were inside out, and she was wearing a red shirt with pink socks – but a mom can only fix so much when she’s also the photographer and hike director.
Fortunately, their cuteness made up for all the sock mishaps (if I may say so myself.)
As the sun set, the scenery got a bit eerie for a minute,
and I got more manic in my photography demands, trying to get the One Perfect Shot.
As my family faced away from me, pretending to admire the sunset but actually closing their eyes to protect them from the glare while chatting amongst themselves, Noah finally got fed up and said, “WHY are we having to stand here for SO long?”
Chris answered, “Because your mother likes to take a thousand pictures, son.”
I defended myself. “Hey! I am doing this photo shoot for Ali. I want to make her dream come true.”
Chris said, “Yeah…right. Blame the kid.”
Ali piped up calmly, “Actually, Dad, she’s right. Being on a billboard would make all of my hopes and dreams come true.”
After the hike, she told me, “Be sure and let me know when I’ll be on a billboard and where the billboard will be. I need to let my friends know so they can go see me.”
I didn’t mention the photoshoot to the kids again, but quietly edited the photos and provided creative input into the design process when requested.
The kids, who had grown used to our frenetic schedule over the past two weeks, asked lazily once or twice what we were doing there, but let it drop when I replied that they’d figure it out soon.
Finally, after the third loop around, Ali yelled.
“Hey! That’s US!!”
“It sure is. On a BILLBOARD.”
“Did all your hopes and dreams just come true?”
“You said they would if you were on a billboard.”
“Oh. Yeah…but I didn’t actually mean all of them. I mean, I have other dreams, you know.”
….But I knew on the inside she was screaming with joy to see her ambition finally pay off. And that her trifecta of the perfect month – ten days of playdates, five days in a hotel, and seeing herself on a billboard – had just occurred.
Noah, on the other hand, told me the next day, “I HATE being on a billboard.”
I asked, “Why?”
“That’s a terrible reason. Actually, it’s not a reason at all.”
Ali said calmly, “Actually Mom, he’s just copying you. You give us that reason when we ask you why all the time.”
As usual, she is correct.
So. If you happen to live in town,
And you happen to be driving on the Red Mountain Expressway toward Homewood in the next couple of weeks,
And you happen to pass the digital billboard at just the right time in the loop to see this,
Please let Ali know that you saw her. And then you, too, can be a part of making all her hopes and dreams come true.
(Figuratively, of course. She has other dreams, you know.)