In my last post, I talked about how we mythologize the loved ones we’ve lost–in my case, Mom.
I also asked the pressing question: Who the hell is Walt? The references to this mystery guy were plenty in Mom’s high school yearbook, which recently came into my possession.
Well, it’s been a long year but so far it ain’t been too bad. It’s been great knowing you this year. Be good and keep ahol’ of ol’ Walter.
After last week’s post, I received emails from my mom’s sister, sister-in-law, cousin, niece, and best friend–a veritable social media reunion!–filling me in on bits I’d forgotten or never knew about my mom’s younger years. Spoiler: Mom did not keep ahol’ of Walter.
If you haven’t guessed, that’s him–the elusive Walt–up there with Mom, king and queen of the 1963 senior prom. I’m wondering if my mom’s Grandma Rose, a seamstress, made Mom’s dress. I’m also thinking not all the ladies in the court look pleased. I now remember my mom mentioning this “crowning,” saying it was only because she was the girlfriend of the king–that this was an automatic appointment to royalty. Until I saw this photo, though, I’d forgotten all that.
Really, some of the pleasure of remembering those we’ve lost must come from the selective forgetting, or curating–to use a popular word–of their personal narrative.
Because, as much as it is painful to forget, it is also painful to remember too much. To hold all the memories of my mom’s life, sickness, and death with me everyday would swamp me. So I am selective. As selective as I would be if I were writing her story (which I’m not–or not in major way, anyway).
I am aware that I gravitate to Mom memories from BC (before cancer), because cancer pisses me off and doesn’t deserve a starring role in my favorite Mom stories.
Which brings me back to photographs and those images we save and frame and hang on our walls for all to see. And the images that remain tucked away, like in a yearbook that hadn’t seen the light of day for decades.
There are the female portraits that inspire whole books, even. There’s Tracy Chevalier’s super-famous Girl with a Pearl Earring–and Katie Ward’s Girl Reading and Carrie Callaghan’s A Light of Her Own (both on my TBR!).
I know many bloggers use photography as inspiration for blog posts. Do you? Have you ever used an old portrait as inspiration for a poem, essay, or story? Let us know, below!
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