On… this year’s anniversary photo

We took our anniversary photo late this year, June instead of April, and I’m posting this even later, in September, and back in August, I wrote something about it for my friend Joanna, who runs the brilliant Cup Of Jo site, and there we have the story of 2020 as pertains to the wretched anniversary photo. (It’s not really wretched, of course. It’s fun and easy and I love it.)

I think I wrote something very small about the anniversary on this blog before. Maybe four or five years ago. But I’m too lazy to check, and too scared of the second-rate writing I will find. (The search function on this blog is like a large rock that I don’t pick up, because underneath it are tiny, poorly edited beetles.) Let’s move on.

We take a family photo on our wedding anniversary every year, in the same spot, outside City Hall in downtown Manhattan. Each photograph is different – the angle, the light, our pose, all of it. The only consistency is that it’s us, it’s the same location, and it’s late April. To keep the experience as simple as possible, we always ask a stranger (or two) to take the photos. We never want to annoy them so it’s only like 90 seconds at the most. We end up with 25 or 30 photos to choose from. In most of the photos, someone is talking or jumping or sneezing or picking their nose. I try to have everyone hold hands or touch so we’re connected, and then Fox and I kiss.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2010
The first photo! This was snapped early one morning in April 2010, a few minutes after we got legally married. I carried flowers from a deli and wore a dress I bought from Portobello Market and silver sequined Converses, and we jumped on a ledge outside the City Hall doors for a kiss and a photo. It wasn’t planned. It just happened. It was perfect.

About six hours later we got married, again, in a big wedding ceremony surrounded by about 140 of our nearest and dearest. I held fancy flowers, and we had a proper photographer and band and cake and all those big shiny wedding things. It was wonderful. But this spontaneous little photo is the one that I love the most, because it was just Fox and me. When I look at it, I tingle. That’s how you want to feel about your wedding day.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2012
We moved to NYC in March, walked past City Hall early one morning, bleary-eyed, with our new baby, and decided to come back for our anniversary and re-take the photo. It was very hot, and I wore a dress that was basically the black version of my wedding dress, so my legs were all sweaty. After we took this photo, we went to the Square Diner in Tribeca and had pancakes, and baby Errol sat in the highchair they provided and grabbed everything in sight.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2013
Look at sweet bald Errol! He didn’t get hair until he was almost three, and even then, it was mostly around the back. We had just decided to try to have another baby. I remember thinking that I knew he would be a boy, and I knew we would name him Ned, and that in next year’s photo, I would be holding him in my arms. And he was and we did and I did.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2014
Darling newborn Ned with his serious little face! I don’t remember this day very well. Actually, I don’t remember this year very well. Both our fathers had passed away just weeks before this photo was taken. After the shock wore off, I found comfort in other people. We both started volunteering more, and I had long chats about death (and grief) with friends and strangers, people on airplanes and taxi drivers and television executives in L.A. Grief is a universal experience. It’s the flip side to love, the other universal experience. Ned had silent reflux and screamed all the time (ALL the time, no, seriously, all the time). I was also stressed about finishing a book for my publisher. I cannot even tell you what happens in that book now. Not a thing. Isn’t that odd?

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2015
By the way, the kiss pose is bizarrely flattering. It makes you all neck and cheekbones. You don’t have to think about your wonky smile or the way you always tilt your head at a weird angle when someone takes your photograph, which is an incredibly boring thing to think about.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2016
Yes, Ned is wearing a trenchcoat and he was NOT in the MOOD. If you have the chance to buy a baby trenchcoat, do. It will make you happy, over and over again. After this photo, we got our first outside ice creams of the year and went to the playground.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2017
I’m pregnant here, but a few weeks after this photo was taken, I had a miscarriage. It was my second miscarriage of 2017 – the first was in early January. Then I had a third miscarriage in October. I was just so sad by the end of 2017. I got up and wrote and mothered and did all the normal things people do, but inside, I was drowning in sadness. Unlike with my dad, this grief was too intense and painful and personal for me to talk about. People often can’t understand miscarriage unless they’ve been through it. This was the only time we dressed Ned and Errol to match, and I wish we hadn’t, as it’s cute but a tiny bit forced. If they’d dressed themselves, four-and-a-half-year-old Errol would have been an astronaut with a karate kid headband. Would have been much better.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2018
You can see that I am clutching Ned’s hand rather than holding it, because he was hopping around like a bunny and I was worried he’d fall off. I’m pregnant again here. But after the experiences of 2017, I had zero faith that everything would be okay. So, I dressed to hide the bump and my giant preggers boobs. And I basically put my back to the camera. This is not a good photo, at all, and I feel affectionate towards it because of that. I was very scared that entire year.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2019
Baby Arthur’s first family photo! What a little honeybun. I’m wearing a sequin skirt that Errol and Ned picked out for me. I remember laughing this entire day. We went to the playground afterwards and I left a bunch of sequins on the slide. That’s what happens when you wear sequins.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2020
This photo was delayed because of lockdown, of course. We had discussed looking fancy for this one, because it’s our 10-year anniversary. But with much more important things to think about this year, we decided to do it without a fuss. My lovely sister took it, so it’s an extra-good one (asking a stranger was not really going to happen in a pandemic). Everyone has lockdown hair. Ned is wearing Errol’s clothes and Arthur just wasn’t feeling that shoe.

We never look at the photos until we get home. If you look at them, the part of you that wants to control everything will just think ‘if only we could try one more time it will be perfect.’ There is no such thing as perfect. That’s what’s perfect about it.

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