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Picture This

13 May

This was my second official Mother’s Day and, given that this time last year T was still sleeping about 22 hours a day, I woke this morning with high hopes.  For his part, Daddy did a great job – mimosas and flowers in bed, thoughtful gifts (i.e., I thought of it and he went to the store to find it) of a climbing rose bush and seedlings for my vegetable and herb gardens, and cards from the boys and the dogs.  The one thing I really wanted, though, was a picture of me and T, just the two of us, and we just couldn’t make it happen.I’ve been trying to get pictures with T since the day after we brought him home.  Everyone I know has these great newborn shots – naked in a basket of feathers, or wearing a little hat, or snuggled into a peapod, you know what I’m talking about.  They also all seem to have  the mother and child shots – new mom lovingly rocking her baby to sleep, or snuggled in the crook of her arm, or even both parents holding the new baby in their hands, their offering to the world.  What did I get?  Nothing.  First I was gyped out of pregancy photos because T had the audacity to arrive a month early.  To make it worse, his father seems to think that magical moments can be frozen in time in some manner other than photographic evidence, because every time I say something it all I get is “Can’t it wait?”  Seriously, an entire year and some months has gone by…what can be left for us to wait??

child art, intentional portrait of mother

But I digress.  To be honest, I wasn’t really worried about those first few months precisely because he was early and, well, a little scraggly.  Beautiful of course, but a kind of scrawny, so I figured I could bide some time while he plumped up a bit.  But at some point between looking premature and becoming “bouncing baby boy,” my mom made a comment in passing that hit me like a rock to the head.  She mentioned that she was rarely in the photos when my brother and I were growing up, usually because she was the one capturing the moment for all posterity.  And it dawned on me that she was right – most of my favorite photos are me with my dad, or me and Dad and my brother, with no mom in sight.  Hell, even one of my favorite photos from our wedding – the wedding party all looking right into the camera, toasting our foray into life as husband and wife- is missing my mom.  I’m not sure how that happened or where she was at that moment, but I’m actually more concerned about the fact that I didn’t even notice she was not in the picture until I’d had it framed and my friend Alice pointed it out (Alice made it into the picture).

So today was really important to me as an opportunity to get a photo or two of me and my son.  I picked out a cute outfit for him and combed my hair (he doesn’t really have any hair).  I planned a short trip to Annapolis in all its scenic glory.  I scouted out a few spots that were shady so I could take my sunglasses off.   And what did I get?  Pictures of his back.  Pictures of his butt.  And one that I can tell is him only because I dressed him – it’s a photo just of a blurry foot, on the run to wherever.  Not only would that kid not sit still, but he was too fast for us to even get in front of him to get his face in at least one picture.  Needless to say, our attempt at a nice mother-son photo was met with tantrums and tears (from both of us, but mostly him).

I’m sure at some point I’ll look back at the pictures we took today and laugh at the absurdity of trying to get a toddler to sit still, even for a few minutes, on a gorgeous spring day.  And deep down I know that I won’t need pictures to prove I was part of his life or that I love him, just like my mom didn’t.  To be honest, as I sat down to write this I realized today hurt for a different reason.  Of the hundreds (okay, thousands) of pictures we have taken of T since he was born, the majority of them are head-on, and in most of those he is at least looking in the direction of the camera.  It seems we’ve come to a new era, one in which T is increasingly comfortable exploring the world and its boundaries, and those lines are further and further from us.  I am not surprised or shocked by this and I’m sure there will be a day when we are once again quick enough to capture an expression on his face.  But for now I am torn between sadness and pride… and I would have it no other way, for I am his mother.

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