Please allow me to share with you on this February 14, 2020 Valentine’s Day an extraordinary portrait that comes with a special story—one of young love. What really makes this story so special is the fact that the identity of the two individuals involved is a complete mystery to me. This story takes place April 11, 2019 at Sam Michaels Park in Shenandoah Junction, a place quietly nestled in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. As life would have it, I was busy conducting a photo shoot of a little girl for a local magazine cover when I noticed in my peripheral vision a young pregnant couple steadily watching me.
Just as I completed my photo shoot for the magazine cover, I along with my daughter started packing up my photo gear. The young man who had been watching me with his pregnant girlfriend, slowly approached me. He stated upfront that he was not appropriately dressed; however, he wanted me to take photos of him and his pregnant girlfriend. I was surprised when on the spot he asked me how much I would charge him. My response was quick and simple. I told him that because I had been taking snapshots of several kids around the park in addition to my main subject, I would not charge him a penny.
The young man sat on a nearby bench with his pregnant girlfriend, who by that time was tired and dealing with an aching back. He formally introduced himself to me; but I for the life of me cannot remember his name. I do recall him mentioning that his girlfriend was from Wheeling, West Virginia which is in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle. The young man went on to share with me how he was rebuilding his life, and how he was excited about having a baby. He had gotten a new job which gave him a new outlook on life. The couple saw that very moment at Sam Michaels Park as being a special place and a special moment in their young lives.
In the middle of taking their photos, I asked the young man to take off his hat so that I could get a different look. He refused to at first, and the reason he gave was that he had not had a haircut. He then followed this up with, “I can’t take my hat off, because I am ugly.” Before I knew it, the mother in me kicked in and I responded, “I don’t ever want to hear you say that again about yourself, because God didn’t make you ugly.” Turning to his girlfriend, I told him to look at how she was gazing at him and how that could not be the expression of her looking at someone ugly. He humbly said, “Yes ma’am. I will never say it again.” I quickly apologized, because I felt as though I had stepped over the line. He objected saying it was all right.
A few more clicks of the camera and I was done. We again started packing up my gear and off to the truck we went. He kindly lent a helping hand as we carried the equipment across the parking lot. While packing the equipment in my truck, he stated that I reminded him of his grandmother who had been instrumental in raising him. When finished, he gave me a big hug and called me, “Momma.” He quickly grabbed my hand and stuffed a folded-up bill in it. I opened my hand and noticed that it was money, and I reaffirmed that I was not charging him for the shoot. He responded, “Then consider it a donation.” My attempts to return the money were met with resistance. When I got in the truck to leave, I unfolded the bill and realized that he had given me a $100-dollar bill. All I could do was cry. It took time for me to gather myself before I started the truck and headed for home.
I would love to know who this young man is so that I can deliver his beautiful photos.