I can’t recall when this picture was taken, obviously. From the looks of it, I must have been two or younger. It’s one of my favourite photographs and with good reason.
My mom has this Mona Lisa smile on her face and it’s so very uncanny because a recent photograph of mine had an identical smile. Talk about genetics! She still smiles that way, every now and then, although I love it best when she breaks into her infectious laughter.
It’s crumpled and creased, if you notice (the picture), but it still retains that element of untouched innocence. There’s a smile that tugs at the corner of my lips as my gaze falls on the tiny ponytail that stands up on the top of my head, curled away from the centre almost in artful play.
The white patches which come from years of being folded away in the pages of a forgotten diary only accentuate the strong jawline of my mom and the jet black sheen of her hair.
It’s greying now, the hair.
The one thing though that strikes me when I see this particular picture is the comfortable way she holds me in the crook of her arm. It seems to symbolise the way she cradles every trouble I face with a calm smile and knows the right words to say, even today.
My mom was 19 years old when I was born and the way people describe her slipping comfortably into marital life and motherhood continues to amaze me. I was married at 23 and had my daughter at 28. There are moments of absolute, unparalleled joy in motherhood that I wouldn’t exchange for anything in the world.
That instant when I first held my daughter close, watched her look back at me with those beautiful pupils in wide-eyed wonder, is something to cherish. That second of joy when she let go of all support, stood on her own and chortled in glee, is one for the picture albums. That precious, infinitesimal time every morning when she would wake up, crawl off the bed and come sleepy-eyed in search of me is a routine I miss dreadfully.
But the truth? Most of these memories, okay all of them, are captured in digital, high-resolution images now. I don’t have a single printed photograph of my daughter and myself, striking a pose which captures our downright crazy, mostly loving bond.
These vintage albums had a charm that digital photos don’t quite come close to achieving. You can run your finger over the creases, hoping to iron them out. Your mind can gently travel over the seconds that brought you joy while your eye gazes at the sepia-toned characters smiling back at you from the photograph. You can hold the picture up to your face and deeply inhale the fragrance of musty nostalgia, in the hope that you can be transported to a time that was simpler, in every sense.
That’s when I realise that faded photographs tell stories too: the story of who we were and who we can be, all brought together in a black and white image, for eternity.