Picture Day

I had the pleasure of recently traveling across the country to my hometown to spend time with my mom and my sister.  Time and distance and life responsibilities have made it difficult for us to all be in the same place at the same time without some big family event in which to partake, but this year we made the commitment to get together and just be family.  No big weddings or funerals or births or giant holiday celebrations that demand our attention.  Just women who love and support one another with the fire that comes only with having your history intertwined with theirs.  It was wonderful to just... be.

And going back to your childhood home (or at least one of them) is always a treat.  The house doesn't look the way it did when I lived there, of course, it would be silly to think that everything is the same 15 years after I went away to college, but some things don't change.  The TV still sits in the same place in the living room, next to the stereo that my dad bought the same year I graduated from 8th grade.  My room is no longer "my room", of course, but now serves as a den and a guest room.  The dresser that my parents refurnished for me when I turned 20 is still there though.  Little things that belong to me seem to find their way back to that dresser, and when I get back there, I find myself looking forward to what new memory might be waiting for me.

And the memories are everywhere, which is why coming home again for me is such a beautiful respite.  It makes me wonder what little trinkets are going to evoke these same types of memories in my kids when they have grown up and return for a visit.  I hope its something like my 6-year-old t-ball picture which I found on my dad's dresser, and has been prominently displayed in my parents' home since it was taken.

I remember this picture day well.  I had been playing at my best friend's house and we had played both dress-up and stamps.  When my dad came to pick me up for practice and pictures that day, I was thoroughly decorated with purple My Little Pony stamps up both of my arms.  They were my "tattoos".  It was cool.  I promise. 

Anyway, he took me to practice and photos, and came home.  When my mom saw me, I remember her having a small fit about the stamps on my arms.  Something to the effect of, "Now everyone is going to see them, to think she does this all the time!" and "They will be in her pictures forever!"  (To be totally fair to my mom, this was probably said in that exasperated by laughing tone, you know the one... you're mom has one too!)

And when the pictures arrived, sure enough, there I was, in a baseball hat that was too big, holding my bat with my "tattoos" shamelessly displayed for the whole world to see, right under the most natural smile you've ever encountered on a six-year-old.  Its a great picture.  Its great because I remember having fun at t-ball, it was a time my dad and I got to hang out together, and I'll always have those memories.  I'll always remember that day playing with my friend before I went to pictures, and be grateful that after 33 years, we're still friends. 

It makes me think of my mom, how laughingly frustrated she was that day, how much she really wanted a beautiful memory of her daughter, and how she thought it would be spoiled by the play and fun I'd had before.  In the end, though, it was the "spoiled" part that made it the best memory.  She loves that picture.  I'm sure she won't remember being upset by the stamps on my arms, because Life has a way of helping you forget the hard parts, and moving toward the good in our memories.  Its why our kids continue to love us when we make mistakes.  Its why we are able to continue to have children even though labor can be difficult, and how we make it through as parents... Time and Nature take the good, and smooth past the bad.

Here's to hoping all of our kiddos are able to look back at their childhood homes and find unexpected good memories in the things we thought might be mistakes.  And I wish you all the best of t-ball pictures!

Victoria McCollum

Victoria McCollum is a birth and postpartum doula and owner of Doulas of Fredericksburg, in Fredericksburg, Virgina. She resides there with her husband and three precocious sons.