I often do think of my childhood and my mother in mothering my own children. I am reminded, at times, of the good times, of trips to the park, of a mother who had perfected a French accent to humor us during bath times, and of mud pies made with southern dirt in the back of my childhood home. I think of these things, but often, I am reminded, too, of what I sometimes perceive as her failings.
I know that no mother is perfect, but sometimes, in the midst of beautiful moments in my own mothering journey I think of her, or really the perception I’ve carried of her all these years, and wonder why she did some things the way she did them.
Why did she say that? Why did she do that? What made her feel like that? I wonder this all from my lofty privileged position as spectator to her turn as a mother.
If nothing else, I said I would be different than her, or that’s what I said when I became a mom.
But through years in motherhood, I’ve realized that “difference” from a perception of a human being who was, after all, human, is tough.
I would like my children to not judge me against a standard of perfection, and so I then must learn as an adult to do the same with her.
She was human, after all. In the midst of being a mother, she was a woman who like me cried about losses and failings and struggled with doing this right and uncertainties that only she knew then. As a small spectator, I saw none of that, just myself, my feelings, and her looming existence as my mother.
I am different from her only in that I had her example to mother against and be mindful of. And so, when I take pictures and edit them and see my children and my motherhood in slow motion, it is her, sometimes, that I remember and ask, “What if she had a camera?”
What if instead of film that had to be processed and purchased and a camera that allowed only glimpses of moments in the moment of picture taking…What if she had my camera and could see us and herself and that moment of being a mother who was human, too?
I often feel that photography is one of the greatest gifts I have as a mother and woman.
It’s a gift because through it I am able to tell a story and, in editing, see it again and reflect in seeing it again. I often do reflect in seeing these images again, and on bad days, I decide that, “Maybe things aren’t so bad as they seem.” Maybe I should decide, in this moment, to be happier, more grateful, because as soon as the picture is taken, it’s over. Motherhood is fleeting. Childhood is fleeting. But memories of it all, sensations are not always.
Photography slows this down and gives me reason to slow down and see the best of this time as I will want to grasp it 10 years from now.
I am happier with my camera, and in seeing my motherhood played in a motion that’s slow enough for me to savor and enjoy and be mindful.
I am able to say, and wish of my mother to have said it, too: “This life is good. And for that, I’m thankful.”
In case you’re wondering, here she’s saying, “Mom! No more pictures!”