I’m not talking about a prayer, or some other sort of religious dedication. I’m talking about this photograph of my mother – my favorite one of her. The photos of her juggling my baby-ish fatness, or adolescent sourness are certainly admirable – solely due to her delicate presence – but this image is my favorite. It is private, thoughtful, sculptural – a perfect silhouette captured in our breakfast room.
I don’t know what prompted this photograph – I was usually involved in parental compositions. Perhaps I was outside, being 5 years-old and acting inaccessible and unappealing. It’s entirely possible. Anyway, if this portrait was the result of a spontaneous thought, a fortunately available camera, how lucky I am that this grace has been secured and is now posed – loving and alone – on a shelf in my apartment.
I wish I knew what she was thinking then!
But I do.
I have her ‘diaries’ – in them she noted anything significant that my brother and I said, anything important we did. So I know this (from approx. 1962):
From a list of books I wanted:
“book about the inside of germs, book about the inside of the homes of insects, book about why moths fly”
“I just asked her what kind of mother I was and was informed I was old-fashioned because I didn’t like cigars.”
“She told her Daddy, very pleased at something he did, ‘that knocks me off’”
(to my brother): “this time your toy chest won’t be a hippopotamus, let it be another animal”
So, this classical model was also a fabulous mother, fondly watching and quick to notice. Then – as now – she feels a pride in me that is my only strength. Between, that is, the quiet and evocative times when she only wishes to rest her quiet profile against a comforting wall.
Those are the times when I want her to forget about us, and think only of herself. But I know, having a mother’s grace, she cannot do this. Still, I hope that on this one day she will.
Such a wish, of course, is not enough. I love you mother, but for all you’ve done for me – I don’t think this is enough.
Happy Mother’s Day.