December 30th, 2022
I can’t get over this photo. It might be my favorite one of her.
So, we made it? We survived another year? Survival is subjective, and not everyone makes it out alive, including the live ones.
Parts of us we used to find essential rust or fade away; we discover new parts that we thought were impossible within us, but they’re there, we have them, and we had them all along.
At our last Christmas at our childhood home, we divided the photos. My mom was not an avid picture taker; she was obsessive, and she captured an entire lifetime under gloss.
As I go through the albums, slowly, joyfully, often painfully (I had to stop halfway through one during the holiday because it was far too much, the one that captured my parents falling in love, getting engaged, and having me), something comes into sharp focus:
She wasn’t just a daughter or sister or mother taking pictures of her family: she was an actual photographer. An artist.
It becomes clear when I see how many of these photos don’t have people in them at all. She captured the human moments, absolutely, the actions and emotions and moods of the people in her life.
But then sometimes there’s just a tree.
And this isn’t the digital, endless reel, “delete those ugly ones!” kind of photography we have today. There is intent here; photography was work. You had to physically develop your photos, and store and care for them.
And she would work for that tree.
And I can’t help but be so proud of her as an artist, and sad I didn’t tell her more so before. I knew she could draw and sew and act but I didn’t really see how much she put into her photography.
There were so many times I wanted to grab the albums from the bedroom closet and go through them with her, asking her questions, sharing her art.
I knew there would always be another Thanksgiving and then there wasn’t, and what we have left are these photos.
I did a lot of things I’m proud of this year, but I’m most proud of being her son. I plan on sharing some of her work next year, because if anyone deserves an audience, it’s her.
Tell the artists in your life what their art means to you while they’re here. Not even necessarily for them; do it for you.
Happy new year. Let’s do big things in the next one. I know I got plans.