Thursday, May 5, 2005

Every Single Photo of Me with My Mom

Weekend Assignment #58: Post one of your favorite mother/child pictures. This could be a picture of you and your mother (at any age), or a picture of you with your children (again, at any age), or even one of your spouse and kids. But it should be a mother who is important to you personally.

AIM Bloggers: Wondering how to add pictures to your Blog? Visit this entry, which tells you how.)

Extra Credit (this is an optional part of the assignment): Share a piece of fun trivia about your mom.

Probably the second worst photo I'll ever post here.
This may be a "simple" assignment, but it wasn't an easy one.  Not for me, anyway.  You nearly got me on this one, John Scalzi.

I spent a couple of hours tonight going through my entire photo collection, except for a couple of notebooks devoted exclusively to Quantum Leap, Doctor Who and travel agent school.  Until I got to the very last handful of pictures in the very last box, the terrible, blurry Instamatic photo to the left here, taken by Joel R. at Snook's Pond in 1971,  was the only one I found with both Mom and me in it. That is, unless you count the two pictures below, of baby me in late 1957 or early 1958.  That is almost certainly my mom's arm, helping me to sit up for Dad and his Brownie camera.

me and my mom - sort of. Circa 1958.  me and that arm again.

This Weekend Assignment entry was saved when I eventually got to the last envelope in the last box of photos, behind the Disneyland ones and the Mexico ones, pictures of dogs and pictures of cactus with snow on them.  The following four pictures are from an envelope labeled "Christmas 1996 - Tuffy, Noodle + Mom."  The house is the current one.  The wardrobe box probably had some of Mom's clothes in them, even though she'd been with us about five months by then.  [Correction: if Tuffy's around, that means Mom was living at Catalina Village by the time of the photo.  We were probably using that box for storage.] The dogs were probably the main reason for these photos, or at least a contributing factor.

1996.  Photo by John.

1996.  Photo by John.

Forty-five years.  Seven photos.  Not much of a photographic record, is it?

There are reasons.

When I was a kid, my dad took most of the pictures.  I was about eight years old when I appropriated most of the ones with me in them (such as the two with Mom's arm), and put them in a photo album of my own.  There may well have been other photos, but they belonged to the family, and stayed with Mom or Steve or Dad as we went our separate ways.  Being fat, I didn't like having my picture taken anyway, especially since Mom always had me take off my glasses and squint into the sun. 

In 1970-1972, Joel R. and I rediscovered photography, and took lots of photos of each other.  It didn't occur to us to take pictures of anyone else.  We were each saving up images of a best friend, because Joel was moving to Maryland at the end of the summer of 1970.  Any photos after that were taken on brief visits north or south.

1996.  Photo by John.

About 1972, my dad switched to taking slides, so pretty much the only family vacation photos taken after that were by me, or possibly by my brother Steve.  Even I used slide film part of the time.  Besides, by then, I was more interested in photographing buildings and nature than people.  (I don't have any of the slides.  Steve might.)

My parents divorced in 1976.  I saw my mom during the summers and some holidays.  She was bitter after the divorce, and we fought a lot.  One of the issues of contention was over photos of our time together as we drove around Florida or Southern California, seeing the sights.  I honestly believed that a photo was better from an artistic standpoint if it was a picture of the sequoia or the castle or Harlan Ellison's house, without any people to personalize it.  The tree was the important  thing, the universal thing, not the person who happened to be looking at it with you.

This did not sit well with my mom.  To her, the important thing was to have lots of pictures of me to tide her over until she saw me again, and maybe even to prove that I loved her enough to let her take the picture. I kept protesting that it was a waste of expensive film,  that I didn't look good, and the tree was the important thing.  She thought I was "refusing" to let her have any pictures of me, out of selfishness or hostility or something.  She didn't understand that I really, honestly didn't think it was important or artistically valid for me to be "constantly" photographed, and I didn't understand that my opinion on the subject was wrongheaded and hurtful.  What neither of us realized was that my artistic decision was also a matter of low self-esteem, exacerbated by her occasional, semi-irrational verbal attacks during that unhappy period.  Plus, there were only the two of us living or traveling together, with nobody to take a picture of us both at once.  And if we did get someone to take our picture together, she would have kept it.  The fact that I didn't find one in her small photo collection means that either it went away when she sold the entire contents of her storage space to avoid sorting or packing the stuff, or she lost the photo, or it never existed.

1996.  Photo by John. Cropped.We did get over the feud.  After my wedding, the fighting between Mom and me was mostly over with.  We were especially close in the last seven years of her life.  Even so, John doesn't seem to have documented much of this.  Although Mom liked John, we didn't really do things as a trio very often.  So unless I find more pictures somewhere, somehow, these seven photos are the only visual record of me and Mom together.  Pity.  Writing about all this hasmade me rather sad.


Extra Credit:  In looking through my mom's jewelry for something that might be suitable to wear to a job interview, I came across her old, tarnished charm bracelet. One of the charms is a grand piano with a lid that opens.  The lid is inscribed: "DeM 3-26-65."  Now I  know when DeManleyville '65 was staged.  Mom wrote book, lyrics and some of the music, and I appeared in it as a doll who came to life at midnight. 

Okay, one more bit of trivia:  my mom once threatened to join the CIA and disappear.  I think she actually applied, but they didn't take her.  They probably didn't want a forty-year-old woman psychologist with two children and a troubled marriage.  But really, wouldn't that have been a great cover?


ondinemonet said...

Hi Karen :)

This was a lovely entry! :) I can understand about having only a few photos with your mother, I too only have a few available to me. I really enjoyed this entry a lot, thank-you for sharing yourself with us.

Always, Carly

btownknitter said...

Hi Karen,  I am so glad you were able to do this assignment yours is wonderful~Janet

ryanagi said...

Wow. You have so few photos because they simple don't exist. I have very few because my mother is selfish and refuses to give me any. :-/ Sad indeed.

chasenkids said...

Wow.. what a wonderful entry. You write so well.... I have tears.


cneinhorn said...

sad you don't have more photos...what a story too Karen...I'm in tears.

gabreaelinfo said...

I like the B&W pics. Your a very detailed story teller. That makes for great writing, no matter what the subject.

Take Care,

chasferris said...

Your entry has inspired me to find pictures of me with my mother.  If I find thej\m I will post them.  Thanks for the inspiration.

pixiedustnme said...

join the CIA and disappear - now there is a GREAT idea ;-)

shelt28 said...

Great Pictures!


kissofvanity said...

Those baby bonnet pictures are adorable!

Ana  ((0.~))