|Mom, 1950 - over her awkward
We're still in black-and-white, BTW.
What I'm finding with this project, though, more than photographs and stories, are holes. Holes in the stories, gaps in the photographs -- and in my knowledge. Growing up, I always wanted the stories. Drop me at a relative's for the day, and within an hour I'd find their photo album or box of pictures and start asking, "Who's this? How are we related? What were they doing in this picture?"
Generally, I got answers, but until I started doing this project, in somewhat haphazard chronological order due to the sheer volume of pictures, I never caught on that there were gaps. I mean, of course there are. There were things no one would tell a kid, and things no one thought to tell me. There were occasions not in photos, and not worthy of mention except that they linked one thing to another.
As a genealogy project, it was kind of frustrating. As a writer, it's fascinating.
Because I get to fill in those gaps.
When I was born, someone gave my mom a baby book. You know, one of those nice leatherette books where baby's first 5 or 7 years of life is recorded in painful detail. Mom wasn't good at painful detail. There are no pictures in the book -- though she did glue in an envelope with my baby curls, and the hospital bracelet from my tonsillectomy -- but some of what she wrote has really set me back.
From the time I was small, I knew that my mom thought the sun shone out of my ass. (Sorry, but that's how she acted). That feeling was followed by the knowledge that I was the best thing she'd ever done. I even heard her say it, repeatedly, like I was a pot she'd thrown or a picture she'd painted. She even said once or twice that my father had little to do with the whole thing. Really? I think he'd have been surprised to hear that.
|One of the gaps - note that the bottom photo has been cut and
pieced to remove proof of her first husband's existence.
I still don't know why.
I never felt like I totally belonged to me.
Reading over her few scrawled notes in the baby book, I'm seeing the woman who had those feelings, before they hardened into the shell that I knew. I'm seeing a woman who was absolutely stunned by her baby, someone who had never wanted children and yet and produced what she called "the most wonderful baby in the world," who was named for "herself" and who got lots of presents "because she's perfect and deserves them."
I just met a woman who I never knew, and she gave birth to me. After 51 years, I just met my mother.