I was sent a new photo of my mother last week, which is a joy for me.
Mom passed away in 2007, and the number of photos I have from my childhood and of my mother is very limited, so a photo even as grainy as this one means the world to me.
The picture was probably taken in the summer of 1971. Mom is carrying me in this photo, and my aunt Diane, probably not yet a teenager, is walking beside her. They are walking through the backfield behind my grandfather’s garage, which can be seen in the background.
I grew up next door to my grandfather, so I spent many, many days playing in that field. There were basements of old, burned-out homes in the first on the left edge of the photo, and my siblings and I would spend summer days exploring those basements and the forest beyond.
When I started going to high school, I would come home after track meets or band practice through a path in the forest that eventually opened into this field. I walked the steps my mother is walking in the photograph so many times.
It’s like home to me.
I can’t be sure who took the photograph. Though I would ultimately grow up next door to my grandparents, we weren’t yet living in that home in 1971. Instead, my parents owned a home in a nearby town in Rhode Island, just down the road from Spring Lake, so Mom must’ve been visiting my grandparents on this day.
My father could’ve taken the photo since they were still together back then, but I had seven aunts and uncles back then, and at least a few were still living at home, including my aunts Diane and Sheila, who was even younger than Diane.
The photographer remains a mystery, but the place is as familiar as the back of my hand, and my mother, so young and presumably filled with hope while carrying her first child, looks just how I remember her in those days.
Staring at a photograph like this is so achingly bittersweet. To steal another glimpse of another moment in my mother’s life is so precious to me, but how I wish I would find a way to open the window on this photo and step through to that day, at that very moment, and see the world for what it was. Just a few moments to speak to my mom and aunt – both now gone – and gain the full measure of the past.
The fact that we haven’t invented a time machine yet is infuriating.