This is How I Think of Her

November 4, 2010

Photos of mom as a young girl are scarce. To my knowledge there are no photos of her as a baby or toddler. Like so many poor people living in Cardon Bottoms in the early 1950s, my grandparents didn’t have a camera. Once they moved to town when mom was around four or five, people in the community took pictures of the family and gave them to my grandparents and others.

After Mom died my cousin gave me several young photos of her, including this one. It’s one of the youngest photos I have of her, and it’s by far my favorite. She looks so joyful sitting on her bike in front of their first home in town, located right where the Dardanelle Housing Authority sits now. I can remember driving by there as a young girl and Mom would point to the large oak tree where she and her best friend Becca used to swing out over the dirt road on their swing made from a cotton sack. The house is gone and the road is paved, but the tree is still standing.

If you knew Mom you know how much she loved to take photos. We used to tease her about it. Get two people together and there she was photographing the event. Because so little of her early years were photographed, naturally she wanted to make sure to capture our own transitions and moments together. Of course now I cherish all those photos, feel kind of bad for giving her a hard time about constantly capturing the seemingly mundane events of daily life,  and find myself doing the exact same thing with my own children, friends, and family. It will take me years to go through her boxes of photos, and I will be thankful for every moment.

After my cousin gave me this photo I knew just what to do with it.  After Mom died I found– among countless boxes of random objects she kept stowed in drawers and under beds— an unused frame with the word “mother” carved across the top. I have no idea if it was intended for a gift or for her own use. She always kept these kind of things on hand, small objects— a pair of purple stretchy knit gloves, a small kitchen magnet with a Bible verse,  an inspirational book about cats—that she could give to someone to brighten their day. I enlarged a copy of the above photo, placed it in the mother frame, and gave it a permanent home on my desk where I can see it every day.

See, the first time I saw this photograph I immediately  knew that this was the way I wanted to think of her. Her face is full of life; her eyes are sparkly, almost giggly. My Mom had a really goofy sense of humor, and when I look at this image of her younger self I can imagine a child-like version of her infectious laugh.

In this photo I can also see something of the “peace that passes understanding” that she often spoke of in her last days. She died with a smile on her face, and it looked a lot like this one.

In those early days and months after her death when my memory, filtered through an angry, broken heart, could only see her body destroyed by cancer, I would look at this photo and remind myself of the carefree child she once was and the peace she knows now. Now that I have George and Elijah in my life I look at this picture and see the same kind of joy and wonderment in their own faces.

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4 Responses to “This is How I Think of Her”

  1. Jo Ann said

    Your journaling is beautiful, Meredith…how special that you have the photos, and this one in particular. I wish I’d known her…but I know you, and I know she was a special, special, Momma to have given the world … you.
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Becca Seay said

    Did you write all of these posts through tears? You are so special, as Mary Sue was, and still is to those of us who love her. When I think of leaving this world, I think of spending time with her again, and that makes me so happy. I am so ashamed that I haven’t given time to you and your family as I should have. No excuse, just know that I love you all.

  3. […] is, Bowling Green turned out to be another footing. Another brick in the wall. If I can borrow from Mary Sue Martin, it was a stone to stand on, once new and now old, succeeding in getting me safely to the next […]

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