It’s Mothers Day and I’m at home. I’m sitting in the basement surrounded by piles of pictures, concrete versions of emotions that I can hold in my hand and run my fingers over their gloss until I’m right back in the very moment. Lucky for me, my family took pictures of everything- from a branch laying on the ground in the backyard to an unfocused picture of my missing front teeth. They seem insignificant, and more than half of them probably unintentional, or taken by 4 year old me- but they are what I’m made of. If you dig to the very bottom of who I am, my character, my quirks, my values, my inside jokes, the things that make me tick- you’ll find blurry photographs of random sticks on the lawn and flailing arms from all the dancing. You’ll find and cheesy smiles playing dress up and you’ll find mismatched outfits with half shut eyes from the fluorescent flashing.
It has always amazed me the ability that photographs have to transport you back. It’s been said a hundred million times that a picture holds a thousand words- and maybe it’s because I’ve heard it said so many times that it’s sort of lost its meaning, or maybe it’s because a thousand words seems like so much for me to wrap my head around- but when I hold a picture in my hands, one of me and my mom- mid moment, her arms wrapped around my tiny 6 year old body, wearing a grin that looks like it was made just for that moment, my bowl cut on point, our matching freckles tossed across our noses- I’m suddenly there again. I’m sitting right there on the back of a firetruck at an old neighborhood block party, tugging at the balloon in my hand. And I can hear my mom laughing at my dads joke from behind the bright yellow disposable camera. I can feel the August summer sun warm against our legs and the love. I can feel all of the love. I’m brought back to the moment, vividly, as if it’s been logged in my brain identical to how it happened and I can go back to it whenever I want. But more than the motions, more than the event, or where we’d been before or after, I’m immediately brought back to the feelings. The feelings leap and jump to the forefront of my memory and all of a sudden I can remember exactly what it felt like to be 6 years old and thrilled out of my mind about a small red balloon, giddy to be in my moms arms sitting on the back of a firetruck that I thought was too loud.
My heart feels swollen when I go back in these photos, it’s overwhelming, I start to get the feeling that I don’t have enough body to hold all of them. It’s a good kind of overwhelmed- the kind that reminds me how thrilled I’ve been to be alive, how loved I’ve been, how simple, how pure, how unapologetic. How shocked into living I’ve been by rewiring and pickpocketing my quirks from my brave and quirky mother, my witty, class-clown of a dad, my honest, creative genius of a brother.
I understand that everyone holds different photographs and contrasting memories, we’re each brought to a different place when nostalgia comes around- but a small, wise voice somewhere inside me tells me that we all suppress the memories we became the most alive in. And that they’re always waiting, sitting in a little box in our minds, ready to be opened up and replayed for us, exactly as they once were. I’d like to believe, and so I am going to, that we were given the ability of memory so that the times we scooped up a handful of our character or filled our heart to the point of pure bliss can be revisited, untainted, untouched, unharmed. We have the ability to remember so that the good times, the really really good times are always there, in their original form- and the bad ones, the frustrating ones, can soften with time. Until eventually, we can hold all of our life in our hands and look at if longingly with a giddy smile on our faces, knowing how true it was to us. These memories are our backbones. They're what has held us up all these years.
If you know my mom, you know these things- but if you don't, here's a mini low down on Anne:
She is that stranger that you strike up a conversation with in line at the grocery store & clog up the lane because suddenly an hour has gone by and you’ve found yourself telling her your whole life story. She’s the lady you bashfully ask to help get the shirt you like off the high rack. The one you test your joke out on because she looks like the type that would courtesy laugh anyways. She will. She wears her skin like it’s her favorite t-shirt every single day. I have never seen her feel the need to iron out the wrinkles or wash off the stains, it is inevitably her own. It makes the people that come in contact with her want to wear their personalities more comfortably too. Thanks for being brave and honest and kind in somehow every single situation you've ever been in and thank you for teaching me to show up to life with a joke in hand and some sass tucked in my back pocket. I couldn't love you more if I tried.