I've been bugging my mom about getting in front of the camera for a long time now, and I was prepared to use every guilt trip trick in the book to make it happen this Mother's Day. She was resistant as soon as I mentioned it.
Like most moms, the wonderful woman who gave birth to me hates to have her picture taken. She has insecurities, like most of us, and has never liked to see herself in photographs. She can pick out every flaw and imperfection, like most women tend to do. Wrinkles, scars, grey hair, that winter pooch that hasn't been melted away by the summer sun yet, all those things that make people, and women in particular, feel less than camera ready as they get older.
Who taught us to see those things as flaws?
Here is a hard truth, all you mommas out there (and to MY MOM, especially); you may never be thinner, fitter, or prettier than you are now; you will certainly never be younger. But you know what your children see when they look at your wrinkles? The proof that you smiled every time you saw us get off the bus and laughed at all of our dumb jokes, the proof that you cried with us when we skinned our knees or suffered our first heart break. We love that worry line between your brows because we know you earned it with every late night wondering if we would come home OK, every baseball game when you hoped we wouldn't get our feelings hurt if we struck out, every time we walked out the door and away from your protective presence.
You know what we see when we look at your scars? The time you cut yourself when making us dinner, or the burn that you sustained when saving us from the campfire, or the irrefutable proof that you carried us under your heart for 9 months.
I know you worry about your extra weight, but we don't. It's proof that you enjoyed cinnamon rolls this winter and that great big Christmas dinner where we stuffed ourselves until we were too full to move, and when you probably curled up with a good book and some candy when there was snow on the ground...plus, it makes you softer to hug.
Before a book is written, the pages are pristine and white. Before a book is read, the pages are unwrinkled and smooth.
But a story that has never been told isn't worth much, and a book that hasn't been read does nothing to stir the heart.
Your scars and wrinkles are the ink of a beautiful love story to your family. Don't let them stop you from getting in front of the camera, because we desperately need to read every line of that story. We want to tell that story to OUR children, and let them read it for themselves in your eyes.
In the end, my mom agreed to let me take her picture. She wasn't excited about it, though. She sat quietly as I curled her and and put some makeup on her. She made me promise to "fix" her.
But by the end of the shoot, when I had smooshed her between my brother and myself, ran back and forth after setting the automatic timer on my camera, squished her with her grandsons on her lap, and then gathered her entire family around her...she was smiling and laughing.
If fact, at the end of the day, she was calling me and asking me if I could send her more pictures.
Soon, those pictures will be hanging in the frames I bought her. Forever proof that her family story didn't end with her. It began a long time ago with eyes that she got from her mom, a nose that she got from her father, and all the laughter, tears, and scars that made them her own...that the love that brought her children into the world will continue on, growing and adding to the story.
I am SO grateful for the woman who gave birth to me. I'm glad that I bullied her and no, I don't feel guilty about it. In fact, I hope that you will bully your mother, too, if she's anything like mine. Because she's beautiful, and her story deserves to be told. She needs to exist in photographs.
"Grandmother's hands are book
you will see
if you look
a family story writ within
the living pages of her skin"