Smile for the camera this Mother’s Day

It was only after my mom passed away almost three years ago that I realized that Mother’s Day was for me too. Up until then, my focus was on celebrating the day with her. Not that I wasn’t thrilled to be acknowledged and honoured by my children too, but whenever Mother’s Day came close and I saw store displays or cards on shelves, my thoughts were about her.

Now that she is gone, I find other ways to acknowledge our relationship. One year, my sisters and I went to the cemetery on Mother’s Day and released balloons which contained messages we had written to her, up into the air. For quite a while after her death, I found it difficult to even look at pictures of her – especially ones of her with me or other members of our family. When I tried initially, the pain of wanting her back with us was just too immense. After a couple of years, and by then even finding comfort in looking at her familiar face in pictures, I found the courage to pull out home videos of events which included her. Up until then, I imagined that seeing her alive and moving would be even harder than seeing her in photographs. At first, it was. But then, as I continued watching, seeing her puttering around her kitchen or being with our children brought me immense joy.

Invariably however, she was trying to duck away from the camera. “Take that away, Sara” she’d say, “I hate how I look in pictures.” Or, “do you always have to take so many bloody videos?” I’m so glad that, despite her protestation, I continued to be the family documentarian. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have so many precious times to revisit.

A few weeks ago, my husband, children and I went on a family road trip to Florida. On the way, we stopped in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to explore the beautiful country in which the Amish live. Driving alongside their horse and buggies, it was is if we’d driven into another land in time. Aside from visiting one of their homes, we learnt a great deal about their customs and beliefs, which include not having photographs of themselves taken, for a variety of reasons.

So, there are no pictures of great grandparents, or even parents on the walls of their homes or in photo albums. Just names and stories of relatives passed down from one generation to the next. I’m sure they try to keep memories of those who have passed on very much alive, but there’s something to be said about having pictures to go along with those stories, I believe.

So, the next time you ask your child to put the camera away or remove yourself from a family picture because your hair isn’t in place or you aren’t wearing make up, remember that your children and theirs will not be examining the hairs out of place or the lines on your face, but will rejoice in the knowledge that there will always be a part of you that has been captured and immortalized forever.