Before photographs, all we had was the mirror to show our gradual metamorphosis from babe to elder. But now— and more than ever— we have the record of our lives in slide show format and we are never less than astonished at the physical changes. Most elders report that they carry the image of their younger selves with them until the brutal contradiction of the mirror or the photo taken yesterday. And why not? All the people we have been indeed are alive inside of us, for better or for worse.
And so on Mother’s Day, I searched for some old slides of my Mom made digital to store on the laptop and came across this one from a rare vacation she took with my Dad away from us kids. There she stands, radiating a beauty that I have to take care not to admire too much before Freud finds me out. Is she the same one sitting in the wheelchair each day I visit? What connects these two people? What greater mystery do we know than the fact that both images carry a Soul born to this Earth to discover why it was sent? Is it proper or grossly egocentric to suggest that part of that mission was to birth myself and my sister, just as part of our mission has been to bring our own children into the world?
A mother is never just a mother, but for some, that fundamental act of creation and all the caretaking that follows and all the blessing of unconditional love that at least my mother continues to radiate to me, is enough. My Mom didn’t build a better mousetrap nor record her story in words, tones or painted images, didn’t teach my kids to garden or knit. She struggled mightily with her bipolar demons and debilitating migraines and did whatever she could to survive it. But throughout it all, she also left the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me in the milkbox, drove me to gymnastics and left me free to follow my bliss at each stage of development.
Now she is my greatest fan when I sit at the piano, giving me the feedback I crave with her gestures, expressions and frequently expressed wonder that I can do what I do. We’ve processed through our changing selves side-by-side and at 92 and 62, are blessed with the opportunity to continue to do so. And I, for one, am forever grateful.