(By Margaret S. Morton)
As a mother I am constantly behind the camera catching all the precious moments of my children’s lives. There is nothing I won’t capture. The external backup drives have started to fill a drawer. And now with online backup like google photos I can keep them safe. I could probably write a thesis on how far behind in my scrapbooking I’ve become. Another story for another time.
My mother tells me she would take a lot of photos of me as a child. (This was in the 60s and 70s ~ How is that possible? I’m still 29!) Due to lack of funds to develop that film and many moves and lost boxes there are not a lot of photos of me from that time. I can probably count on my two hands all the photos of me before the age of 10. Which means there are not a lot of photos of my mother either. And the lack of photos of my mother actually is not just from lost film. She and so many mothers hid from the camera not wanting to be seen unless their hair and make up and the setting was perfect. And as a mother raising seven children I wonder if there was ever a time my mother felt like the setting was perfect.
Taking pictures back then wasn’t like it is now. No instant viewing of the photograph and delete if you didn’t like it. And you can take 20 30 40 100 pictures at a time now and go through them until you find the one that you like. But back then you got 12 pictures and to develop that film it was expensive so you treasured each photograph and took your time getting the setting right so that you didn’t waste any of that precious film.
Several years ago I read an article about two sisters whose mother had recently died and when they were searching through the house for pictures of their mother for the funeral they found 2. One was a picture where she was hiding at the back of a crowd of people and the other with her sitting at the kitchen table with her hands in front of her face because she didn’t want her picture taken. Two photographs. Two lonely photos to leave behind the record of who she was. It made me sad to think that these young ladies were left with no visual memory of their mother. And the grandchildren would grow up never knowing what grandmother looked like. The lesson from that article was mamas take the pictures.
I decided at that time to let the photographs be taken. To stand and smile or just be natural depending on the setting. I imagined My husband magically picking up the camera from time to time when he saw me interacting with the children or doing something interesting (because we know mothers in their natural habitat are very very interesting). He would see me standing at the kitchen sink and snap a pic. Or follow me around the playground with the children capturing cameo shots of me waiting with outstretched arms at the foot of the slide and wrapping my arms around my child as he came flying into me. I imagined photos of beautiful colours and nature around us.
Evidentially my husband would be even further behind in his scrapbooks due to the lack of photos he took. Months went by and I was still behind the camera taking all the photographs. He was in many of them. And I was so proud to take those pictures. To capture my boys sweet faces and their joy. But then the memory of that article came back. I realized that I had let too much time slip by waiting for somebody else to capture my presence in the world. I did not want my young boys life to go by with no record of their mother being a part of it.
So once again I vowed that I would make a record of me in their life. I started by turning the camera around and took a picture of myself with the family behind me. I would take selfies with the kids. (Everyone look at the camera! ) Now there would be a record.
But I still didn’t feel like I was me or that I was capturing me the way I felt about myself. I was always mom in the photos. Which is a great role but that’s not only who I am. I started to take a few selfies when alone. When I was feeling pretty or lighting was right. Just a few here and there. Then I started capturing moods. Laughing, crying, angry, frustrated. States of chaos like a long drive home from a trip. How I was feeling at that time. No matter what it looks like. I wanted to show all sides of me. I don’t want the record just to be with me with perfect hair in a perfect setting. Or for all the pictures to be of me just as a mother.
One selfie at a time I have built a record of over 500 images. And it is a true record of who I am.
My life will likely not be the longest one. I have Parkinson’s. So I feel the need to record who I am now while I am as healthy as I am. My children are young especially my daughter. I want her to remember me as energetic and fun and able. Or at least be able to see that part of me through this record that I am making of myself. Because probably in her older years, her late teens or early 20s, she will have a mother that is not so energetic or fun or able.
A lot of my selfies are me and the children, me and my husband, me and my best friends and happily happily happily me and my mother. I treasure the mother daughter selfie’s. Because as I said, in her younger years there are so few photographs of her and there are certainly none of the two of us together. And I decided that whenever we were together I would change that and take a selfie with just the two of us. My mother has glaucoma and she has a hard time focusing. She doesn’t really like to smile for a picture. And I don’t care.
This record of self-expression is a gift to myself and to my family. Because I love them so much I’m leaving them with a part of me. They will never forget me. I won’t let them.
So that’s my argument for why selfies are important. Parents (dads you’re guilty of this also) grab your phones turn them around. Life is short ~ capture it. Capture you.