In normal fashion, every morning – my hubby and I started off at the table together with our coffee and a quick check of our online business analytics. It’s the tedious work that we try to spice up with each other’s company. During this time we check all of our social media emails, calendars, etc, and always end up on Instagram looking through photos and sharing with each other.
Recently it sparked a conversation about a photo of him that I want to have enlarged, printed, and framed. It also got me thinking about the importance of handwritten dates and notes on the back of printed pictures in this day and age of everything digital.
This morning with unexpected tears, I shared a story with my husband about my mother and how much I treasure her hand writing.
A Mother’s Love Felt Through Her Hand Writing
I lost my mother 18 days after I was born. She was 21 years old and had so much life to live, but she sacrificed that for me, her baby whom she loved from the moment I began to grow inside her.
My mother has always been an enigma to me. No one in my life has shared many stories of her so my knowledge of who she was and what she loved is very limited. I have very few photos of her, and only a couple items that belonged to her (her wedding ring, a bracelet, a statue she gifted my grandparents, and some photos I know she once treasured).
When I was about 10 years old I found a box of her stuff in our hallway storage closet. Of the items in that box I remember her wedding dress, her jewelry box full of earrings and bracelets, a cassette tape recording of her memorial service, and a handwritten note about her pregnancy.
In that note she was so excited to feel me kick; she talked about the changes in her body, she was so happy and so in love with me.
Sadly, at some point my father realized my discovery and one day everything was gone. The only thing I had left was the bracelet on my wrist that I had taken previously and worn to school.
The Gift that Changed Everything
In 2018 my world changed when I went to a holiday dinner at my aunt’s house and she brought out an old photo album to give me two photos she had. One of my mom and her two siblings, all of them teenagers. The other, a photo-booth photo of my mom and dad. When she removed the tiny selfie from the 70’s and I turned it over I found a written note on the back in my mother’s writing which titled the photo “Me and Gary, New Years 77’-78’”.
Instant tears. My breathe caught, my hand immediately covered my mouth, and my husband and aunt were both left to watch and wonder until I could speak and share.
That photo is one of the most valuable things I have of her.
The Important Stuff
As I recalled this story with tears running down my face, I explained how important it is to me what we leave behind for our kids. One thing all the loss in my life has made me value is the small, personal pieces that people have left behind for me to remember them with. Things that were cherished by them, not just owned.
I want to make sure that in 40 or 50 years when my kids look through the old photos and memories from their youth that they also have my writing on the back with dates, and with fun notes so they remember in that moment that we have both touched this picture. I want them to have that connection.
It’s a Mixed Bag
In some ways, growing up with the lack of parents/adult figures in my life like I did has been challenging. It leaves me at a disadvantage when it comes to perspective in some instances regarding my own parenting and its effects on my kids. In some cases, my idea of parents becomes romanticized and unrealistic to the moment, other times I just don’t have any basis for comparison on “how I would feel if …“.
However, in other ways I believe it helps me because I am also very aware of the things that matter the most: experiences and memories, unconditional love and acceptance, boundaries and emotional responsibility; the level of awareness I have of just of how important my role as mom is, is intensified by my losses.
It is quite the balancing act to parent after trauma.
I just hope my kids appreciate the written notes on the back of photos in a few decades, the way I cherish the writing on the back of my parent’s photo.
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