Friday, March 4, 2011

Writing Prompt: Her Mother's Daughter

I went home this past Christmas and my mom was intent on showing me photo albums of her mother. She pulled out boxes and plastic bins and worked up a sweat trying to find them.
"I want you to see..." she said.
It was important for her to show me in chronological order. To  remind me, this is how it happened. The albums were in excellent shape, unlike the ones kept at my dad's place where there are two, both bought from the 99 cent store when I was a teenager. One of them no longer has a cover, and so my Kindergarten picture is now the first page that greets you. The other one is filled with an assortment of pictures from my father's childhood and my borhter and I playing soccer when we are about eleven and nine years old. There is no order, only splatterings of memories, like paint droppings on a canvas meant to cover the floor. But mo mother's albums, once my grandmother's albums are perfect, with years written out, indicating, "London, 1948."  "Spain." "Germany." I see my grandmother as a baby and within a few pages I see her as a teenager, a young married teenager, and her smiles are big as if with each one she is sucking a breath of fresh air. Her shoes are off in Morocco. Her hat is blowing away in Spain. Her plaid coat is perfect against the black and white Scottish Highlands as if to say, "there is texture here."
"They were really happy at first," my mother said when referring to my grandmother and my biological grandfather, her first marriage, just before they had kids.
We reach my mother's photographs and she looks strikingly similar like my brother's baby photographs: open mouths, big cheeks, soft brows. As I watch my mother grow up, her childhood in military bases in Europe, she looks like a boy.
"I hated brushing my hair, so Mom kept it short," she said.
When her sister Leslie comes along, she steals every photograph with her delicious dimples, perfectly combed pigtails ending in curls and ribbons.
"Leslie was the cute one. I was the bad one."
And from her photographs it certainly looks that way. My mom is constantly moving in every photograph, one knee sock down, one dress strap off her shoulder, annoyed when she is supposed to pose in matching outfits next to Leslie, the cute one. But as they get older and they move to California, the pictures find color. My mother grows her hair out and the color does justice to her sun kissed hair and beach tan from days of playing hooky in high school. Leslie remains perfectly coiffed, not a lash uncurled. But my mom becomes sexy, laughing in alomst every photograph, wearing slinky tank tops, standing with bad posture, not ever posing with an attitude that seems to say, "I just don't give a fuck,"
like going barefoot in Morocco.

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