Sunday, May 22, 2011


New York
My mother would be 101 years old today. I've thought alot about her, partly because I am combing through all of the photos from my childhood. And my children's growing up years. Mother was very present in my boys lives. For one thing, my father had died three years before Chris, my eldest was born. I think his birth softened some of her sorrow at my father's sudden death of a coronary. He was 60; she was 55.

For another, I lived in the same Iowa town where I was raised for the first two years of Chris' life. My mother, who always said she was not going to be a "babysitting grandmother" changed her mind when Chris came along. I remember calling her soon after I came home from the hospital because I thought I was going to pass out. She was there in minutes. I don't know whether it was hormonal or just the cold realization that this baby was forever, but I do remember that she comforted me just by showing up.

By the time my second son, Ben, was born, we lived in Iowa City-still close enough to visit often. Then, a move to Washington, DC. Mother flew out every 3 or 4 months and she continued to do that through three more moves: Indianapolis, Chicago, and finally Philadelphia. And my children loved her dearly. She showed up for graduations, birthdays, Christmas, and would always send packages to the kids on holidays--a giant chocolate Easter egg, candy corn for Halloween, sparklers on July 4th.

So what has this got to do with the pictures in this entry? I looked at these pictures and remembered that this is how memories are sustained. Like the yellowed pictures in the photo albums that I've culled, then re-arranged, discarding what I thought I could live without, I wondered if my children--and my grandchildren would do the same some day.

Maggie, Ben's first child will be one year old in June. Ethan, the eldest of Chris' children, will be 8. Edward, 5 in July; Ella, 3 in December. They are all in the pictures above.

I was struck by the looks on the faces of the boys when they presented me with the homemade birthday cake ( the curly headed on is my great nephew, Liam ). And my sentry stance with Ella at the castle playground in Central Park ( it was very high ). Or the love I see when I look at the print of Maggie and me last Easter.

I just called my son to remind him that it was Mother's birthday. I can't help but wonder if someday he or his brother will pull out a CD or whatever storage device is in vogue for keeping photos--and look again at pictures like the ones above. It's what we do. Record the little moments randomly, really. And then find out later that they sustain us just when we might be adrift.

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