For several months now, this mysterious and wonderful picture of my mother has been sitting on my desk. I can’t put it away. I pick it up often, and it truly is a wonder, because it makes me feel so many things and also makes me realize there are so many things I do not know.
There she is, mid-swing, in what looks like a park somewhere on a cloudy day in the forties. Lovely skirt, blouse, and sweater, saddle shoes, hair done up - obviously decked out for an important outing. Where? With whom? Did a brother snap this shot? My grandfather? A boyfriend? Was my Dad in the picture yet (figuratively)?
The stroke looks a little awkward. Perhaps she didn’t spend all that much time playing ball when she was a girl, but here we are at one of the many things I do not know. Perhaps she was trying to pose, but I don’t think so. Mom was always conscious of her appearance, but never overly focused on how she looked. She had the confidence of good grades, good looks, and good family, and carried herself with athletic grace. She had three little brothers to look after when she was growing up, and knowing that bunch, I’m sure they bounced her around a little bit. She was not thin-skinned or delicate.
But what is in that face? What’s in that expression? There’s anticipation, naturally. There’s a ball coming at her and she’s trying to hit it. There’s joy and fun and the pleasure of being out with people whose company you enjoy. She’s looking out, straight ahead - right at the viewer. There’s a trace of fear, I think, probably brought on by the camera. Nobody wants to miss when the lens is focused on you.
But the shot is unfocused. That, I think, is why I find it so intriguing. It’s just a dream to me, because this is someone I know intimately, but yet never knew and never can know. My mother is gone, yet here she is way before I was around. I want to know this woman, but cannot.
And so I keep the photo near, hoping she will reveal herself to me.
I miss my mother a lot, but she is always with me. I carry her warmth and her mystery and her love.
How lucky am I?