I’m taking part in a writer’s workshop right now called “Writing Into Motherhood.” It was one of those chance opportunities. I ended up in the right place at the right time. A bit serendipitous given that I had been looking for something like it locally. It’s offered as a distance workshop with conference calls and forum postings. I’ve had a little bit of difficulty along the way finding the time to get my assignments done. I still have a few to get done before I can submit them and get started on the next part of the project.
The workshop has been helpful in my stage of life – especially as I look back on my own life and try to puzzle out how to move forward from here. It’s certainly enlarged my sense of motherhood and made me wonder a bit at what it must have been like for my Mom. Yes, I could just come out and ask her, but that’s I suppose really not the point. Given that I was the oldest child I have more photos than my sisters. I also have a notebook that my mom kept from when I was a baby. I suppose it’s more of a journal and it’s certainly helped me get to know her or at least a slightly different version of her than one we typically present to others.
A few weeks ago I had taken a picture of Baby M in a vintage shirt I had gotten from my Mom. I had asked her if she remembered who wore the shirt. She suggested it was probably me, but handed me a big stack of photo albums. The one I find most interesting was from my first year. The album no longer has a cover, just a spiral bound set of pages with photos yellowing and losing their color. When I look at the faces in the picture I recognize most of the people in the pictures – although they are a great deal younger than they are today. I wonder sometimes what they’re thinking. Are they wondering how things will turn out?
I’m sure the answer to that is somewhat of a mixed bag. I think there are some ways in which we can imagine what will happen. Things turn out just the way we think they will. Other times it’s a bit of a surprise and whether good or bad we roll with it. We learn to accept things as they come and try not to hold on quite so tightly.
The photo album sits in my closet now and waits for me to get around to my grand plans. I have hopes to find a way to get them restored (editing them with Picnik helped a bit). I plan on flipping through the pages. I’m far too young in the pictures to remember anything about them, but I have found that what I identify most with is the pictures of my Mom. The sitting, rocking, diaper changing, and breastfeeding are all so very familiar to me.
When I talked with my Mom the other day we somehow got on the topic of breastfeeding. She mentioned that I would stop sometimes, look up at her and smile. Almost as if I just had to pause and say “I love you, Mom” in the way only babies can. I know that smile because I’ve seen it with my own daughters (I didn’t breastfeed my son for a variety of reasons. I regret not being stronger to this day. I’ve found the bottle feeding experience was very different from breastfeeding, though.). I know that toothless grin with the bit of milk dribbling out of the corner of the mouth. I don’t know what it’s like to give that smile because I don’t remember, but I do know what it’s like to be on the receiving end.
In some ways motherhood is a lot more complicated than I ever anticipated. It’s far richer, too. When I look back on those old photos I can’t help but wonder what my children will think when they look back on the pictures from their childhood. Will they be as forgiving as I try to be? Will it reassure them if they become parents themselves to see the journey I’ve taken in raising them and know that they too are trying the very best they can? It should because at it’s very root that’s what motherhood…parenthood is all about. No instruction manuals, flying by the seat of your pants, hoping to God you don’t mess this little person up too irreparably.
Note: I’m hoping to share a few more pictures along the way. I find Mackville Road’s Memory: Monday so very inspiring. No promises, though, just the intention.