My mom died in a car accident when I was 19 years old. It’s been 18 years, with only a few old pictures to tide me over. Eighteen years is a long time to remember how someone’s voice sounds or how their laugh echoes through the house or how their eyes crinkle up when they smile at you. Memories tend to get blurry on the edges, morph into your own edited version, and then disappear altogether as the years pass.
So how do we remember our missing loved ones? We tell stories about them and we look at old pictures. Picture albums filled with smiling faces and inside jokes the whole family knows about. Pictures that commemorate each birthday, graduation, wedding and birth of a child. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So these photo albums contain hours of family narrative.
Except when you have an obese mother who absolutely hated to have her picture taken. Then you don’t actually have pictures of her to look at and reminisce about. My mom’s body image couldn’t handle having her extra pounds immortalized in print, so there’s not much for me to look back at. We never took formal family pictures for this reason. She became quite adept at avoiding any group shots. Smart phones with easily accessible cameras weren’t invented yet, so she was able to avoid most photo-taking.
Eighteen years later I’m still sad and angry that she never allowed those pictures to be taken.
Because those pictures won’t ever be viewed by her grandchildren. The ones she’ll never meet. Because sometimes I want to look at her face and compare to my own aging face to see how we look alike. Because I loved her for her, not for what her body looked like. Because I just want to see her, faults and all. It’s bad enough I’ve forgotten what her voice sounded like. I just want pictures of her so I can at least remember her hands, her facial expressions, her exact hair color. Because by her removing herself from the picture opportunity, she removed herself from the moment, which is really what this life is made up of.
Since I can’t yet time travel and try to change how she feels about herself, I can simply learn from her and decide to do things differently. I’ll be in all the photos with my husband, with my kiddos, with my friends. Every life event will be forever saved on my computer and on paper, with my smiling face in it. Sometimes heavier than I wish to be. Sometimes with bad hair and an unfortunate outfit. Sometimes in a revealing swimsuit showing every ripple and stretch mark.
Because I have every right to be in the picture no matter how “imperfect“ I’m looking. Because my loved ones love me in all my versions. Because the picture is often not about me, but about the love we have for each other or the fun we had that day or accomplishments that should be celebrated.
So you may roll your eyes at seeing yet another body image article thinking it’s just the latest pc thing to talk about. But the lingering effects can ripple through the generations much more than that swimsuit pic you’re worried about. Don’t let your thoughts steal your moments with your loved ones. Make sure you’re in that family photo album. We all want to see you, beautiful!
A less-than-glamourous picture of my daughter, my husband and I being a human pyramid. No make-up, weird expression, hair in my face, BUT IN THE PICTURE AND IN THE MOMENT!!