Picture it. You’re there with the other spouses, waiting for the bus/ship/whatever to come in. You’ve made your signs. You’re wearing a cute dress. Your hair is perfect. Your kids are adorable, holding their little American flags and balloons. And then, there he is, stepping off the bus, bag over his shoulder. You run to him, arms wrapping tightly around his shoulders as your kids wrap themselves around his legs. You enjoy a long embrace and a deep, loving kiss before stepping away to enjoy the moment when he holds your child for the first time in months. The band is playing. Fireworks go off. Streamers float through the air. It’s everything you could have possibly imagined in a homecoming.
No. The reality is he’s exhausted, your kid has candy in her hair and has ripped out her pretty bows hours ago. Your signs have footprints on them because you had to set them down to keep your fingers from cramping and someone stepped on them. The bus is four hours late. It’s midnight. Your feet are killing you! OR, if you’re like me, you get the phone call…
“Um…I’m going to be a while. I have to make sure everything gets off the ship. Don’t bother coming to the command post yet,” even though all the OTHER wives had been united with their hubbies. Then, when he finally arrived, bleary-eyed and grumpy, I walked down the hall to find him there, where we exchanged that warm embrace and loving kiss in front of a group of 15 strangers. Not the picture-perfect reunion I expected from my first homecoming.
The question becomes: do you want a photographer there to capture it all?
This is a relatively new trend in homecomings, but it is very popular. I think back to when my kids were small and when the hubby came home. Would I want someone to capture it? For me, I think the answer is no, but to each their own. When it comes to pictures, here are the two biggest questions you might consider.
How does your service member feel about it?
Your service member just spent 6 months to a year (on average) away from home, working his or her butt off. Some of service members deployed on ships, others spent months in Afghanistan, grinding it out. My advice would be to ask them ahead of time how they feel about having someone there to watch their homecoming unfold.
Will the camera distract anyone in your family from enjoying this memorable moment?
It doesn’t matter what time they get back, what you look like, what he looks like or how crazy your kids are acting. Homecoming marks the end to the constant worry, semi-single parenting and desperately missing the love of your life. If you think the camera will distract from “being in the moment” of reunion, consider if the snap shots are worth it. Do you want to look back on the time and remember how awkward you felt with flash bulbs going off over your shoulder or do you want to remember how his arms felt so strong around you? If you think the camera won’t feel like an intrusion, why not capture the moment in photos?
Homecoming photography is a very personal choice that your family has to make together. For me, deployment has marked the end of something I’d rather forget but can’t, to be perfectly candid. I don’t like deployments and ours, like many of yours, were filled with a lot of heartbreak. Some of them took longer than others to get over (as I tear up while writing, I clearly still have baggage). I’m not sure I would want to capture that time, forever and always, in a photograph, because it would bring back a lot of sad memories. Instead, I’ll keep the homecoming memory in my mind, a personal reminder of how thankful I am that my husband made it home safely and that we are together again. I am thankful every day that he is by my side.
So what do you think? Does homecoming photography interest you?