Family road trips are one of my favorite memories growing up, driving across the country visiting National Parks. I would invent new ways to annoy my sister as we entertained ourselves for long stretches of time. These were the best bonding experiences.
As these kinds of family road trips become less and less common, as life fills up with work, school, and a million other commitments ” to be able to just spend time together is the greatest luxury of all!
On this particular day, I’m waiting outside my West Hollywood condo as my family for the day pulls up in a silver Buick Enclave. Mom jumps out and sweetly offers me the front seat, as Dad pops the trunk and offers to help with my bag. At first I insist on handling it myself, until I see his Homeland Security ID and badge!
œI’m sorry, but we just met and I have my entire family in the car, he explains with a kind smile. I defer.
I cast this family after seeing the submission for Amber, the youngest daughter. She immediately struck me as a charismatic and fun-loving kid, with beautiful green eyes and strong features for her age. Along with her parents and sister Nichole, we set out on our adventure to the Antelope Valley.
The drive blew by fast, as Nichole gave us a window into a different perspective on the world due to her autism. She loved hearing her dad’s stories about work and his time in the military ” stories about everything from monkey brains to werewolves.
We stopped at a roadside stand for local honey.
We drove into the poppy fields.
We skipped rocks at an aqueduct.
What a great day!
My favorite shot of the day was seeing Amber basking in the sun as she popped out of the sun roof, but the most memorable moment happened on the way back, as I sat reviewing the day’s shoot while we fueled up at a gas station.
Nichole came over to me and held her arm out as if she want to hold my hand. Her sister Amber explained that she wanted me to squeeze her arm, the harder the better!, the harder the better! Right away I recognized this as a sign of affection for people with autism. My sister, who practices Occupational Therapy in Arizona once told me that deep pressure is very soothing for most people, and especially so for people with autism.
That moment made me feel really connected to the family. I was no longer just there to document and observe ” I became a true participant in their road trip.