Day 19 of Verb Tribe we were asked to choose a childhood photo and look at it and then write, Who was I then?
I have always loved this photo of me and mom but I've only looked at 'her' for clues to what she was thinking, what that hidden smile meant, how she's holding me. The photo says 1967 making me three but I look younger. I thought this photo would trigger loss and sadness but I feel only joy and love looking at it now.
Here are a few excerpts from my bag:
"On my God! I was gorgeous—I look like a plump angelic cherubim—my eyes are wide with wonder and I am besotted with my mother—I love her with every iota of my being and she belongs to me."
"My happiness bubbles up from a hidden well and this pure joy cannot be contained—I laugh, I spin, I run, I swim, I play; I am love in action. In my heart there is only me and my mother—I am safe."
My mom knew how to love and dote on me as a child—I was her life (she'd been told not to have another child after my sister, eleven years my elder). But she was relationally and emotionally unavailable as I grew and in my adolescence I fought (as only a teenager can) for my freedom and left home at sixteen. We were still close after that but on my terms. When my daughter was born she transferred all the love and doting to her.
Mom became ill with dementia about ten years ago and I was finally able to celebrate the independent spirit she gave me and the example of living as a non-conformist and always doing things her way as a business owner and optimist.
I did not love mom like I did in this photo until the last few years of her life as her caretaker, our roles reversed. I would always tell her she was safe and loved as I tucked her in (exactly as she had done for me, I was terrified of the dark) and I gave her my lifelong Teddy to keep her safe and I would say I love you…and often she would parrot the words back and sometimes not respond at all. But one clear night after a particularly good day I said, Goodnight mom, I love you. And she said with emotion and joy, Oh, I love you more every day. That's what this photo means to me and who I was…and who I am still today.
Mom would have turned eighty-one today—happy birthday mom!