For me to accurately describe my mother, I must turn to pictures. The old square photos, taken on a camera whose speed I can not recall, complement the buried images in my mind. I believe that these pictures have formed the image I have of my mother, as she was not there to do so. My pictures, greater in number than my actual memories, have given me constant connection to the woman I physically lost over 20 years ago.
In pictures, I can tell you that she was beautiful – thick, dark brown hair that was once the natural color of mine, a smile whose joy could not be forcibly recreated, and a presence that, even in an aged photo, shows you her high familial standing.
My memories of my mother are sporadic, and many of them complement my pictures, leading me to ask if they are really memories at all, or merely captions to accompany my physical proof that she did, in fact, exist. In my mind, unfortunately, my images are not so clear – the development of those pictures was cut short when I was but seven.
I have five distinctive memories of my mother: an Easter egg hunt in the backyard of our home; a scolding I received after stealing a Kermit the Frog pin from the local drugstore; her hands in mutton, making sandwiches before a picnic at our house; playing the card game “War” and shouting “I hate you” after losing; and saying good-bye before I was taken off to my aunt’s house. That was the last time I saw her, and I believe it to be the most vivid memory of all.
There are the ones without her as well. The day when my aunt received the phone call that would change my life forever. I don’t remember the day, but I do remember the moment… my cousin and I were chasing each other around my aunt’s coffee table. I don’t remember how my aunt told me, or what my reaction was after hearing the news. I only remember the running; it was the one image my mind developed and placed in my internal photo album.
But in pictures, I have much more: naptime with pink curlers in our hair; her napping beside her beloved English sheepdog, Samantha; dressed up as cowboys together with Dad; being crowned Princess in a school pageant, me in my red & white princess dress, and she and Dad in their casual wear, having worked all day for my “campaign;” dressed up as clowns together in a parade for the same event; and she and my dad on a cruise vacation together, knowing she was sick, but happy as well.
I believe that these pictures are my strongest connection to my mother. And while so many take for granted a candid snapshot or a posed family photo, for many of us, it is all we have, and I believe in the power of the lasting image it creates.
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