Scraggly circles with wriggly smiles. Hair sticking straight up, reed-like arms and legs. Bodies made of round circles and noses that take up half the face. Oddly shaped rainbows, the Earth the size of the Sun and families where Mommy is stick thin. For an added touch, the artist's name is scrawled in capital letters, nearly overtaking the space around the picture.
A house full of pictures that chronicle a lifetime of memories. Smooth skin and curly hair, clavicles that stick out and thin thighs that are long forgotten. A blushing bride with a poufy veil. Bright smiles of a honeymooning couple. Round, pregnant belly awkwardly posed in front of a mountain of welcoming gifts. Brand new screaming babies. Proud, anxious parents. Grandparents in awe of their grandchild. First toothless smiles. Wobbly first steps. Vacation shots at the beach, mountains, national monuments. Children with lost teeth.
There are haphazardly framed photographs in every corner of my house. Carefully chosen, they reflect moments that linger within my heart. They chronicle the evolution of my life, motherhood: from fearful first-time mother to more at ease mother of three.
For some, a picture might be a way capture an image of an event, now forgotten. For me, they are a reminder of how far we have come as a family, how far we still have to go. Pictures of John and I during our Senior Year of high school, as engaged college students, as married homeowners. They help concrete the reality of things that have been buried in the recesses of our often overloaded minds. They remind us of a simpler, more innocent time; one without the many responsibilities that shackle us in adulthood, that serve as a reminder that we were once younger and thinner. Maybe even cooler.
The pictures that mean the most, the ones that I treasure the most are the ones made by the subjects of many of my photographs. My children's pictures line bulletin boards in the kitchen; hang proudly, framed in our bathrooms; serve as inspiration at school, where they are displayed next to phone lists and emergency procedures.
The pictures that my sons have drawn throughout the years serve as a measure of how far they have come, and how far they have yet to go. The ingenuous depictions of our family, rendered in pencil, crayon, marker or finger paints hold a special place in my heart. No matter what day I have been dealt, what crisis I am wading through, a quick glance at Joshua's parade of smiley faces, or Andrew's freehand Mickey's or Matthew's latest blueprints for a new invention is sure to put a spring in my step.
What I have found the most rewarding of all is to sit and thumb through my old childhood pictures, usually flanked by my boys. Their laughter at long and thankfully forgotten fashions and hairstyles, their wonder as they see that their mom was indeed a child herself, their surprise at seeing their grandparents and great aunts and uncles much younger is an experience. Seeing myself, through their eyes, is necessary. They don't see the baggage that I carry: the worry if I am doing a good job mothering them, the sadness I feel when I look at myself in some pictures, remembering a day long gone by, another lifetime ago.
It gives me an opportunity to reflect as I sit and look at my own children's multitude of digital shots over the years. The wonder of how much time has gone by. How much they have grown and learned. The bittersweet knowledge that this leg of the journey is fleeting; they are become independent individuals.
It makes me wonder why there are so few pictures of me with them? Is it that I am always the recorder of the moments that make them giggle, frozen in a snapshot for all time? Am I participating enough, yet always hide behind the lens?
Yet, in the moments of self doubt, when I wonder if they are okay, a small, or medium, or large hand will quietly slip unexpectedly into mine.
Yes, they are okay. I have the photographic evidence.
Without a camera, my eyes focus on the owner of that hand within my own.
And my heart snaps the picture.