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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Picturing a mother's love

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I heard the story on the news. As I was rushing to get ready for work, I had to stop, one shoe on, one hanging from my finger, to watch.

"The Mom Stays in the Picture," the graphic at the bottom of the screen read. The words I heard made me tear up, and nod my head.

"Someday I won't be here - and I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now - but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother."

Allison Tate, writing for the Huffington Post website, captured the hearts, and the real-world reality, of millions of moms. We're so busy cooking, and cleaning, chauffeuring and well, mothering, that we don't have time or inclination to capture ourselves on film.

We worry about what we look like - no make-up, a few extra pounds, hair that's three weeks past time for a cut and color. We're programmed to think of others above ourselves. We're the ones ensuring we have images of every stage of our child's life.

We're the ones behind, not in front, of the camera.

I've often joked that my child, an only, was the most photographed person on earth. As a journalist, and an amatuer photographer, I've worn out four cameras capturing every stage of Drew's life. The images fill hard drives and flash drives and CDs burned and labeled by year.

I was number five of seven children in my family. By the time the fifth rolled around, my parents can be excused for not jumping up with the Instamatic every time I smiled. Heck, I'm lucky they remembered I was there, usually found curled up in a corner with a book.

And looking back on it, I can't, for the life of me, remember a single photo of me with my mom.

I know she loved me, loves me still, with a fierce and undying devotion. Photos just weren't at the top of her priority list while I was growing up. She had her hands full.

Golly it would be nice though, to have a photographic memory of us - together - from back then. Now, with both of us AARP-qualified, it seems silly to insist on a mother-daughter photo session.

Me? Well, I have a few shots of my son and I. But, the fact that I can name each and every one would add evidence to the fact that they number about a dozen.

Photogenic? Not me. That's part of the reason. The other is that I just don't even think about it.

But I am now.

So are thousands of other mothers. They flooded the website of the Huffington Post with their own photos and stories. Tate's column has become a rallying cry. Her words rang true...

"So when all is said and done, if I can't do it for myself, I want to do it for my kids. I want to be in the picture, to give them that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are."

When I meet my newest great-nephew this weekend, I will pull his mother aside, the lovely Dani, and press a copy of Tate's column into her hands. I hope it will prove to be a reminder that, despite baby weight, unruly hair, or just a lack of time, she owes it to baby Benton and herself, to stay in the picture.

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Paula Buenger