My Mama, Barbara, would be 91 today if she were still alive. This picture of her makes me smile. She's got a kind of mysterious, Mona Lisa-like smile. I wish I knew what she was thinking. And that bow! I've got a box of them in my closet. She apparently loved big bows when she was a girl - and saved them her whole life.
It's hard for me to put the disparate pieces of my mother's life together: the girl who loved big bows doesn't quite fit alongside the woman who wore her hair in the same wash and set for the entire 48 years that I knew her (and goodness knows how many years before that). And that Mona Lisa smile doesn't quite match the woman who learned to see life as a series of disappointments.
When I look at pictures from Barbara's childhood, she seems carefree - and free to be herself. Somehwere along the line, someone or a series of somethings taught her that life was NOT carefree and that her self wasn't good enough. I'm grateful that a week before she died, I was able to say to her, "I wish you could see yourself the way that others see you." Her response was our family's typical response to a conversation we didn't want to have, "How 'bout them Red Sox?" At least we both laughed.
I thought about all this conversation again tonight after reading Facebook. Each year on her birthday, I post a few pictures along with a remembrance. My feed began to fill with other remebrances - from Grafton, from Western Mass, from Berlin, NH, from California. People who knew my mother, primarily through me, reflecting on what they appreciated about her. A class act. A beauty. A card shark. A firecracker. I loved her. I miss her. All true and all things I loved about her, as well!
I think if Barbara were alive today, she'd be astonished to read these words. Somewhere along the line, that confident girl lost some of herself and never was able to find it again.
It's a cautionary tale really. And one I often need to remember myself. We're only here for a short time. Don't waste this beautiful life worried about not living up to others' expectations or standards. Be your beautiful self with whatever big-bow equivlaent you need to shine. Be a class act. Be a firecracker. Be yourself. Take your inspiration from the girl with the Mona Lisa smile.