This morning, read an article called “The mom stays in the picture” by Allison Tate. “Too much of a mama’s life goes undocumented and unseen”, says Allison.
I loved the essay Allison wrote, but as the writer of the blog that “Documents and Dramatizes” the mundane moments of my life, I couldn’t relate to her thoughts. In this family, mom stays in the picture, always, unless she is wielding the camera. This mom has loads and loads of pictures with her children on every computer and every smart phone in the house. There is us, in our pajamas, hair all frizzed out in a hotel room. There is us, without make up, having breakfast with a backdrop of sink full of dishes. There is us, pillow fighting in unmade beds. Most of the times the hair in not done, nail polish is chipped, and the face is bare. Sometimes, I am just fat. Pictures of us aren’t picture perfect, but we smile and show our big teeth, braced teeth and baby teeth in all of our pictures with pride. I am their mother, and they, my daughters, this is how we are, and there is nothing we are ashamed of! I will go ahead and show up in the pictures, with my children, with my parents, with my friends, and with my husband.
I don’t have a problem being me, but others do, sometimes. One of my friends called me recently with triumph dripping out of her words. Epic fail, she said. I see the silver shining in your hair, you can’t fool me anymore, she added. Oh, OK, you noticed the picture. I am writing blog after blog documenting my transition from youth to middle age, and I am trying to hurt your plastic sensibilities via my words, but if you didn’t read it, that my dear, is an epic fail for me. Anyway, come Christmas, you will receive my holiday card featuring my sun-blessed silver dusted hair and happiness dripping through the ends of my eyes. It’s not fair that you think growth spurts in kids are cute, but my transition from youth to middle age is repulsive!
Pictures in the past decade are on the computers all over the house, and someplace in the clouds too. But I still have a box of pictures like they did in the era of dinosaurs. Those prints have documented our wedding, our life in apartments, our first child, our parents’ first visits. There are pictures of me with my parents, my friends, and with the door of my closet filled with Rahul Dravid’s picture. There is a picture of me wearing someone’s bracelet. Like the sisterhood of travelling pants, this special person left me the bracelet for summer. I wore it like I owned it. Time took its toll on the bracelet and on the friendship we shared, but the picture has sealed that memory forever.
There is a picture of me with my grandfather. He died two months after we took that picture. That’s the one and only picture of just the two of us. I didn’t comb my hair in that picture, but if I had said no that day to the photographer, I probably would have ended up with no time capsule of sorts with my grandfather. I don’t have any pictures with my other grandparents. There are pictures of grandparents, and then there are pictures of grandparents with their grandkids. But we have nothing that shares the special moment between us. Probably that’s the reason I have loads of pictures of my children with their grandparents, documenting their every activity.
I have a picture with my best friend. Everyone has one, but mine is special, because there won’t be another picture with her, ever. She is a Moslem. A few days after we took the picture, she started wearing the traditional wear, Burqa to hide her face. According to the diktats of her religion, she couldn’t take pictures any more. But the picture of us remains as a document of our friendship, and of her beautiful and carefree youth. We grew apart after we chose different career paths, and haven’t seen each other in the last decade. She is not on social media also, so we are not connected virtually. I tried contacting her through friends of friends, but so far it’s been an epic fail. Till I reconnect with her again, that picture will be the only reminder of the relation we shared in our teenage years.
Most treasured pictures of all, they are of a too tired, and worn out from epidural mother who hasn’t had a decent shower with her newborn. When I saw those pictures, I wished that I had freshened up my face or fixed my hair at least, but there they are, stark reminders of the moments after giving birth, full of pain, and pleasure as life progressed and I stepped into parenthood. Happiness of sorts, documented. I never shared them with the world, not even with my mother. They are in the box, one day for my daughters to see and know how their mother looked when they entered the world. But today, after I read the article, I ended up discussing the article with my ‘sisterhood’ and ended up sharing the pictures with them.
Of course my friends told me that I look beautiful with the new mother’s glow. They are left with only one option of applauding the warmth of love between me and my new born when I share such a vulnerable moment with them. I have acne breakout today, because over the weekend, I ate like a teenager. I have acne, I told my husband, and before he reacted, I added that I feel ugly when I have acne. Poor guy, he walked to the other room saying you look beautiful. I leave people with no other option than telling me what I want to hear sometimes.
But not so long ago, the world’s most beautiful woman Aishwarya Rai was not so lucky. Every magazine clicked the picture of her double chin, and the baby fat. They were very critical of her weight gain, called her an elephant, even made a youtube video and compared her with Victoria Beckham who bounced back to her size zero (or is it zero-zero?) immediately after giving birth. Aishwarya reminds me.. I worked near one of the famous portrait studios in Pasadena. One of my coworkers visited the gallery one day, and came back to me with a picture of a woman in peacock blue sari and wedding finery and told me to get my picture done just like that because I wasn’t going to stay beautiful like this always. It was Aishwarya’s picture from Devdas. I think if she had known about this incident before, the youtube video of her picture with elephant sounds wouldn’t have felt like an insult!
But not all moments are filled with self love and confidence..
As a mother, my life also revolves around my daughters. On Halloween, I took exactly forty-seven pictures of my girls using a heavy duty camera. I don’t give that camera to the children to take my pictures, but I have a smaller and easy to use camera for them if they wanted to take good pictures. Then there is the smart phone with a state of the art camera. Technology has advanced so much that I don’t even need anyone to take my picture. All it takes is a touch of the finger to enable front facing camera before I click myself. But I still didn’t document my first tryst with red lipstick.
I have destroyed a lot of my teenage pictures too, thinking I didn’t look good. Now I regret doing so, for ruining the time capsule of the precious casual moments of life. Perhaps that’s why I tell my daughter not to check “fix acne” in her middle school pictures, and ask her to smile with her braces showing- I want her to be proud of all those changes body goes through. Also, when I look at my childhood pictures, I notice that I have more pictures with my mother than with my father. Perhaps my father needed Allison to write a blog for him saying “Dad needs to stay in the picture!” He was young, handsome and I resembled him more than my mother. Maybe that’s why he didn’t feel the need to document our relation? We have professional pictures, but not many casual pictures that documented our everyday life. I don’t know how I looked taking a nap on my dad’s shoulder, or walking to school with him. That reminds me, I also don’t know how I look with my parents as an adult. Just the three of us. They consider it rude to pose like that. They include the grandchildren in every picture, and we can join in if we wanted to. They have not expressed any desire to take their pictures with only me. Maybe they don’t think it’s cute to document three people transitioning to the not so cute phase of life in one picture?
So next time I see them, a picture of us, just the three of us! One graying, one platinum blonde, and the other with platinum highlights. That should be a keeper..