As mothers, we come to know our children by more than just quirks in their personalities or the way they eat their breakfasts or the kinds of foods they like. These things, these tangible ways of “knowing” our children, are fleeting. They last only so long as the child doesn’t change. But the minute you put your child next to another child at school who’s bringing Ho-Ho’s for lunch, your child suddenly has a craving for Ho-Ho’s that never was before.
The tangibles change with the changing child. A child not seen by friends or family for months or years will hear them marvel at how he suddenly likes his vegetables or she is now funnier than she used to be.
So, how then, does a mother always know her child? It boils down to the intangibles. The way they smell, a look in their eye, a certain way of being in the world ~ an attitude of “this is my place.” The things that are indescribable with words, but are known without pause by a mother’s heart to say “this is my child.”
My mother, like all mothers, will say things to me like, “You’ve always been like this.” Or, “I remember how you used to be like this.” They are never specifics she gives; they are always intangible in nature, as in “it was your way of being.” Headstrong, quiet, thoughtful, trepidatious; these were my qualities. And I always preferred being defined that way ~ as a set of indefinable qualities that bore out my essence of being, rather than a changing set of tastes.
My daughter, who now loves broccoli and doesn’t care for Lucky Charms, is defined by a relentless, fearless spirit. Since the day she could walk, she threw her shoulders back and owned her space in the world with a quiet confidence that made you want to look twice. Inside her was peace, kindness, joy, and a touch of mischievousness that I admired. Even now, there always seems to be a glint in her eye and a spark in her step as if she just did, or is about to do, something good for her memories but bad for my wallet.
The same is true for how we see our own mothers.
Photographs attempt to capture these elements of being on film. A great photograph is less about the technical aspect of the picture, and more about the qualities the subject expresses within the layers of ink. And in this, I feel lucky to have a couple photos of my daughter that almost perfectly capture these qualities of who I see her to be in this world. But the one that speaks most of her inherent being is the one below. Perhaps it is her posture, perhaps it is her eyes; but I guarantee, it is the essence of who she is. This is how I see my daughter.
As for my mother, the photo below is how I have always seen, and will always see her: A tireless smile working to evoke a laugh from everyone around her. Not so she could laugh, but so they could. A form of empathy working overtime to bring joy to those closest to her.
Do you have a photo or two that shows the essence of your mother or children? I’d love to see them!