I thought I was being a dutiful and loving daughter by helping my mother set up her first blog. But now it appears she’s gotten it into her mind that her goal is to use the blog not just as a coping mechanism for her illness, but as a platform for sharing my baby pictures as well.
I have never known another person on the planet (besides, perhaps, the head librarian at the Library of Congress) who maintains a larger collection of photos than my mother. As a child, I remember staring at the rows and stacks of colorful photo albums that lined the bookshelves in our living room. Each was labeled with a number, and the earlier albums even had a table of contents on the inside cover. After I was born, however, that stopped because the albums thickened with photos and spoke for themselves. My mother documented every minute of my life and stored them neatly away in an album. Some of my clearest memories are of her sitting in that living room with photos spread across the table and an album open to a fresh shiny page. She would begin by placing the photos on top of the page to get their proper positioning (and proper sequencing) and then slowly, painfully slowly, she would lift the clear film, the plastic softly removing from the sticky paper, and mount the photos carefully onto the page, replacing the clear film over the photos and pressing down to stick the plastic to the page. This was the age before digital photography, when the lifting of a photo and pressing onto a page seemed to carry more weight, more memory, more thought than the simple clicking and zooming of our cameras these days. In my mother’s simple action of placing a photo onto a page, she was retelling our family’s story.
Through fifty or sixty albums she did this same thing, viewing, sorting, pasting, placing. Through fifity or sixty albums she went through with her hands and told our story. And then, with as much care as she took to build the story with photos, she told our family’s story again and again to anyone who would listen. On all of our family vacations, she carted stacks of albums around (the most recent 3 or 4) and showed them to anyone: people who had opened their homes to us for the weekend, complete strangers on the beach, hotel employees. (You can deny this last one, Mother, but even though I don’t have concrete evidence that you did this, it’s exceedingly likely you did.)
And so today, when I saw my little self up on my mother’s blog, waving to her as she clicked the shutter of her old camera shut, I thought about how that blog was like the ultimate chance for her to tell our story. You are the ultimate audience for her because she can talk and not be interrupted. She can choose whatever pictures she wants (except for the naked ones, Mother! You know this already!!) and write to her heart’s desire about them.
And the way I see it, that’s pretty good therapy.