I Remember Mama

I remember when this picture was taken.  The year was 1971.  I was my youngest daughter’s age (she’s 7) although, I look a lot… you know… bigger.  My parents have tons of pictures like this.  This one’s in pretty bad shape, but I promised to go through and save as many of their photos, digitally, whenever I could (I mean, they’ve got boxes and boxes of ’em) but, it’s become very difficult.  Harder than they could ever imagine and it’s not because my parents don’t have a computer, either.

I just realized, for the first time, how much I’m really starting to look like my mother and it’s killing me.

Yeah, it was a long time ago — a lot of the photos are old, colorless and somewhat faded, by now — but, the memories, curiously enough, are still very vivid.  They rush through my fingers and fill my heart with a crescendo of uncertainty and all of my insecurities, at that very moment, were undoubtedly written all over my poor mother’s face.

I didn’t get it, at first.

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"Why isn’t Mama smiling?"

My 13-year-old has this way of sneaking up behind me and nearly gave me a heart attack, again.

"What are you talking about?"

Looking back on the moment I realize now that my tone may have sounded a bit harsh — okay, so I was more than a little annoyed with the interruption, or maybe it’s because I was caught off guard… again — no worries, my middle girl already knows her mother is quick, like that.

“Mama looks really different, sad and a little angry even.”

Unfortunately, the kid was right and it was exactly how I remembered my mother.

“Moms sometimes look like that, you know?”

Lord knows, I do.

“But, not Mama.”

Right.

“She’s always smiling.”

Yes, in my children’s eyes, my mother simply is the most wonderful person in the world and they have a real hard time understanding how exactly she could have ever been my mother.

“She never yells, or anything.”

No.  Never.  Not at her grandchildren, anyway.  My brother and I, however, remember my mother (and my father) differently and often times joke about our parents’ selective memory.

Then, I come across a picture that somehow manages to reach inside the deepest part of my heart and, like an unwanted bastard child, unlocks a glimpse into memories of the past best left forgotten, by everyone.

Like, when we lived with my grandmother and one of my earliest memories is that of her being beaten by her abusive husband.  Or, the times when my mother and father would go without speaking one word to each other, sometimes for days, not knowing that my brother and I felt as if we were the reasons why no one in our house ever seemed, you know, happy.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always like this.  There were plenty of good times I remember about growing up, too; around the time my twin brother and I turned 12 and moved out of my grandmother’s house.

No, I don’t remember much of my childhood, other than feeling frightened more often than not and brief flashes of understanding the reasons why I hate the dark and basements, so much, or the tightness I feel in my chest, whenever I find myself “needing” to clean out the closets in my house and how, even today, I strive to make other people happy.

“Your mother and I are so thankful to have been given 4 beautiful grandchildren!”

Yes, my parents will always remember me as their clumsy little girl, who breaks things and was prone to accidents, rather than the child who would’ve been much happier eating dirt, if it meant her mommy and daddy could stay home and take care of her, instead of why anyone would even consider leaving me (or, my brother) in the care my grandparents.

Besides, my children are better for it.

Then, it hit me — like most things do — like, a brick upside the head.

"It’s you…being with you guys makes your grandmother smile."

Although, I tell them (all the time) that she is NOT the same woman I grew up with — don’t worry, my mother laughs when I say that, too — I’m thankful that it is the face my children will always remember.

"It’s really nice that you’re saving ALL these pictures, though."

Only now – especially, around Mother’s Day – I find myself turning them over and over again.

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