July 7, 2015

Photo Finish

My kids weren't like yours.

Mine were the most beautiful little girls ever made.

They had smiles like light bulbs...

 ...and were Olympian in their physical prowess.
They were masters of disguise...

and the Rodins of their time.

Unlike your kids, mine were adorable. Which is probably why, unlike you, my kids' photos have taken over my house. They are to my walls what kudzu is to South Carolina...
And waxy yellow build-up is to tabletops.
Detect a slight change in tone? You betcha. Because here's the truth. My kids were beautiful. I cherished their childhoods, I worship the women they have become.

And I am really sick of having their pictures all around me.

I write about this because I am trying to understand the paradox. I filled my house with their photos while they were filling my life with hot pink tutus and roller blades. I artfully arranged frames of their antics, their smiles, their moods at the very moment they were artfully arranging my bed into a trampoline. So now that they've flown away, taking their giggles and hair products into far-off zip codes, you'd think I would feel nostalgic.  I'd think I would feel nostalgic...and want to surround myself with reminders of the magic place in my life that was motherhood.

But what I am really feeling looks a lot more like this.
I am of course still a mother...still an active mother at that. Although my ranking as the Ultimate Source of Information has fallen as that of Google has risen, I still am the one to call about the broken foot, the thrilling promotion...and yes, the request for bail. I get indecipherable text messages daily, I hear their voices weekly, I kiss their silky foreheads multiple times a year.  

And between you and me, that is enough. I can't believe I would ever say that, could ever say that, but it is true. They are Out There, where they are supposed to be. And I am in here, in my life, doing the work of entering my 60s.  I don't need to have their childhood pictures in little frames on my dresser because they are in the Vault of my mind, playing in an endless loop at any and all times of the day . I don't even need to have their adult pictures hanging on my walls because I feel their pulses in my own heart even as I sleep.

I'd rather fill my walls with images that reach the whole person that I am.

Where I came from...
Where I've travelled...
...and where my soul wants to be.

What appeals to my sense of playfulness...

Imagine doing all this work by hand and spelling the words wrong! (Flea market find)
...and of course, what just plain old appeals to me.
So this will be the summer that the photos of those little girls will move off the walls, the dresser, the ledges..and into the little cabinet under the Roadkill Frog Band. I don't feel guilty...

...I won't feel guilty.

Will I?


  1. o k ....
    we are getting

    or....REAL for and to me.

    ok. and O K.

    this is MEAT. I love this. and I thank you for this. And i Claim you as a Sister in

    i am going to look more and really


    With my brain and with my
    Heart, both

    I love you Julie. This is GOOD, like, really really Good. Good GOOD. yup

    1. It was one of the scariest things I have ever written. Glad that you get that.

  2. Replies
    1. Oh Ha! you crack me up Julie, offering photos to the surrogate spinster auntie?

  3. No you won't feel guilty. I didn't. And guess what? I dont' even want my grandkids on the walls. Maybe a couple on the dresser. Plenty.

    1. I am SO SO glad to hear you say this.Really. I still wonder why I had all the photos when I had the kids in the flesh. Weird.

  4. As always, I am laughing. My mother has a whole wall devoted to pictures of her seven children and umpteen grandchildren, but I have never hung or displayed a single personal photo. I keep my memories in highly organized (yeah, right) shoe boxes.

  5. This is beautiful. PLEASE WRITE A BOOK. I WILL BUY ALL OF THEM.

    1. How about instead, you buy a box of photos of a little brown eyed babe before she grew up to be your BFF? How about you take them for free? How about I pay YOU to take them????

  6. We all have our ways of telling our stories and they evolve as we evolve. When my girls were little, I doubt I had more than two or three photos of them in our entire house. Mostly I had photo albums that were in a drawer, once in a while I would get this nagging feeling that I needed to put them out on display. However, now that I am a grandmother, well, I love having family photos all over our home. 95 % of them are of our grandchildren although I do have a tiny photo on my nightstand of Rich and I holding our one yr old twin daughters and next to that photo, one of my parents holding our girls when they were 6. Do I have things that I also love on our walls, yes because family photos and my cloth collages and my one copy of a rare Van Gogh print and my copy of a Hawaiian weaver, all of these are not mutually exclusive. They tell my story..our story.

  7. i have never had more than a few pics of my children "out". Even when i was a young
    mother. Once for christmas my brother's wife sent one of those large frames with
    several family pics in it. It's been propped on the floor in the bedroom. Always had
    some little pricks of guilt that i wasn't "like everybody else", or, "how i Should be".
    I also never was one to afix stuff to the refrigerator either.
    There are the old fashioned fat photo albums.
    What you are doing here, though is different....it's a major Shift. I nod, imagining
    what it might feel like to take them off the wall. But it's not impulsive...you have
    talked about this for a while.
    am waiting to find out what happens when you do. it will take some getting used to....

    1. Yes, a shift. Its like I've been giving lip service for the past 10 years or so to the notion that "oh, they're grown, they have their own lives..." and now I have integrated it into my being and also have added the phrase "And I have mine."

      Nothing on the refrigerator door. Ever.

  8. I follow your blog from time to time since Judes class but never comment. But this post pushed me to say something.
    It is a long time we life with our children. When you are in it seems endless. When they start to live their own lives you see that it isn´t. I felt relief and sadness at the same time but over the years the relief became bigger. More space more time to explore what I am beside being a Mom. More freedom in a way even if in the dark time of the night sometimes there where a lot of sorrows. But also the confidence grows that they will go their way. For me your change of images is the sign of this inner process. It is the time of the not-a-mom part of your person. Enyoy it! No time for guilt! And it is a good experience to watch how the relationship to your adult children will change. When you stay in the guilty- mom- mode their will be no relationship from adult to adult. I sometimes forget that I am the mom of these persons I love to spend my time with ( from time to time)
    by the way having grandchildren is a new challenge ... how can I defend my free time and space looking at these cuties?

    1. Oh HELLO Doris, I am SO happy you popped up with a comment. I love how you describe the relief overcoming the sadness over time and that's exactly how I feel. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think "I don't have to worry if she snuck out of the house last night. Ever again!" or "I don't have to carpool today. Or ever.
      Ever again." And those are such sweet thoughts.

      I never thought about the upside, either. That separating from them gives me more access to their true adult selves. Thank you so much for all this.

  9. ha, you are such a brave woman.
    i have pics of the boys here and there, and i'm guessing they'll stay stuck for a while yet (even though i don't see them anymore, the pics i mean) I look forward to our eldest moving out in a couple of weeks time: he and we are both ready for his journey into the unknown.

    a thought, serendipitously relating to your post's topic, occurred to me today whilst walking through the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and looking at a particular painting by a female artist Winifred Nicholson, née Roberts, whom I hadn't heard of who had been married to Ben Nicholson, whom I did know, and it was a portrait of two of their children (all three children were left in her charge after the couple separated) and this is my point, I thought : I know him as he pursued his career and became a famous artist, he managed to be and stay himself all along, she had become first and foremost a mother. There is nothing wrong with that, it is what happens to many of us. But it does mean putting yourself 'on hold' as it were. Being an artist myself, I have always struggled with the wanting to be alone in the studio and wanting to be a 'good mother' and having felt guilty a lot of the times as I have spent so much time in the studio, physically near to the boys, but very much away in my mind.....so I completely get your point.

  10. Hi. Haven't been here in many moons, but came on over from Saskia's today, looked all through the Iceland pics/post - lovely, and I have a dear friend with an Icelandic mom! But this post...this one is perfect! My photos were thick in their growing up years, but as time has gone by, they have slowly gone away (not completely). They seem to ebb and flow with my mood, depends if I'm missing them (they both live far and I see them rarely) or feeling sentimental. But it is not just childhood them...it is younger me, younger couple us, some old friends etc. Sometimes they hang around for a bit, then go back in a box again. And last month, at my sons wedding, I took my daughter her 4 seasons clay mobile she made in first grade. It'd hung in my bedrooms all these years. I told her that I was done with my turn. She can do whatever she likes with it! Thank you so much for this post and inspiring the comments from everyone else, for even if we didn't handle/feel about the picture/mom thing the same...we know that we are all here together...processing, evolving, just going. So nice to read your voice again after such a long while. ~Nancy