Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Little Girl (8.3.1940)


I found an old photograph of my mother last night.
It was taken on Saturday August 3, 1940 at Nantasket Beach.
At the time, she would have been 12 years old, close in age to my youngest.
The photo was originally black and white but the passing of time has drenched it in antiquated sepia tones, similar to the way our own personal memories take on a rustication in the subtleties of detail.

In the picture, my mother is wearing a button down shirt with vertical stripes.
My mind automatically adds colour and I see vibrant red and white stripes that make me think of candy canes; a comforting child’s confection.
She’s looking back over her left shoulder and smiling a smile that I fondly remember. She was happy that day—I can see it in her eyes and sense it in the sweet innocence radiating from her face.

My intense joy in looking at this picture is tempered by my knowledge of what the future will bring her; the total devastation and loss of all people, places and moments in time that really meant something to her…perhaps like the day this photo was taken.

If I were an all-powerful being capable of miracles, I would have given her back this particular day: the warm sand between her toes, the brackish ocean breeze, the cute boy that smiled at her as she strolled the beach; I would give her back all the love and happiness she would sadly miss in her later years.

Though this picture breaks my heart in a bittersweet way, its chaste beauty heals me in a way I may never comprehend.
Maybe I’m not meant to know the ‘why’ of it.
I see the image above this post as the pure embodiment of my mother’s soul, at peace and forever frozen in time.
For me, it’s an unforeseen gift that disease will never take away.
I often forget that she was once just a little girl.
Maybe that’s what I’m meant to know.



  1. i sometimes wonder if to have lost my mother when she was only 37 has been, in some ways, easier than what people go through when their parents are afflicted with this disease…perhpaps i was luckier than i realise..i remember a relatively young, vibrant person who never aged and was never ravaged by disease as many are
    wondeful post….one of those that touch my soul as you seem to have the knack of doing :-)

    Occasionally, Kelly will say she’s run out of ways to comment on my writing.
    I’m beginning to know the feeling .
    Your comments are always so wonderful.
    You say many of the things that I want to hear as a writer.
    I can’t imagine losing Mum at 37.
    Have you written about her?
    It’s amazing how much stuff ‘stays’ inside of us.
    Thanks again, ZN. . .


  2. I hope many people read this entry. If this doesn’t inspire people to remember that they love their parents (loved ones) and to live that love, then I don’t know what will. There are too many who don’t realise what they’ve got until it’s gone.

    Hindsight can be a devastating thing sometimes unless we open our eyes and
    take a hard look at the people in our daily lives.
    If this post has opened one person’s eyes that were previously closed, I am happy.
    Thanks for stopping by, SP.


  3. What a nice bit of writing. I love that picture. She was young and something was making her laugh. She had no cares. No bills, no disease, no broken heart. We all have that at some point. Then adulthood takes over and something in us dies.

    I’m going to have the picture restored.
    May post the cleaned-up version at a later date.
    I agree, what draws me into this picture is most definitely her ‘youth’.
    Thanks, Carn.


  4. What a beautiful post and memory of mom. I luv 2 look at old pictures, especially the ones I have a my dad when he was young and in the service. He is sooo handsome. I miss him terribly!
    Awwwww, now I’m all sad. What I would give just to hug him one more time. *sigh*
    Thanx 4 the memories!

    I don’t like to make people sad but unfortunately my writing has a tendency to do that.
    But if I can make you think in such a way that you once again cherish a loved one, is that really so bad? 😉
    Thanks for reading, SB. . .


  5. Inside us all is the sweet smile of our youth. When the misfortune of illness steals that precious gift, it is one of the greatest tragedys of all. At least we can cling to the old photographs and remember the time that was. I have a photo of my grandfather as a young man. He is fishing off a bridge with a pole in his hand, his favorite Stetson cocked on his head, and a look of contentment that seems as if it would last a lifetime. In the last days of his life this look was replaced by looks of confusion and loss but now that he is gone, I keep the vision of this picture in my head and know that this is how he is best remembered as he truly was and not as fate had cruely twisted him.

    When we’re in the midst of caring for a loved one that’s ill, it’s the bad stuff we live and breathe day by day.
    I think it’s only human nature to dwell on the good in one’s life rather than the bad.
    For me, I’m still at a point where I’m examining both sides simply because I still can’t believe the same disease claimed them both.
    The photo of your Gramp sounds like a Norman Rockwell classic.
    Thanks for the visit, Fuzz. . .


  6. You know there really isn’t much more to say about this, everyone else has beat me to it. I don’t think I could think of anything anyway :) You seem to do that a lot to me you know….well that’s not exactly true, I do have very strong reactions, but somehow the words to tell you that seem so inadequate are like those of a 5 year old in comparison to your way with words.
    I think your mother was a very special lady, as evidenced by the amazing son she has raised…
    Cheers, Kelly

    How do I follow that up?
    Tanks, Kell. . .


  7. I loved the picture of your sweet mama as a little girl. I too have many pictures of my parents when they were young, happy and in love and they have become my treasures. I currently have a picture of Dad on my frig when he was in the service–quite handsome to be sure, with a photo of my mom on his little shelf in the barracks. Memories of a happier time.

    I was touched my your comment about the fact that there are some gifts that AD cannot take away from you. I found that to be true of my memories of my dear sweet dad. NowI return to all those memories of my daddy–from the time when I was a little tyke up until the time AD took a hold of him. I told Deb Peterson that keeping pictures of my dad when he was of full presence posted everywhere helped me to keep a better image of him in my heart and soul than the one I would see when I actually visited him. It may also have served as a catallyst to help me regain the memories after he was gone from us.

    Thanks once again for sharing your heart and thoughts with us. Laurie

    I love the old pics of my mom and dad when they were dating.
    It’s still strange to think that they were once love crazy kids. . .
    But they were.
    Thanks for the visit, Laurie.


  8. The photo certainly captured the essense of your mother, a timeless moment indeed. But the words in your story brought to life for me the deepness of your love, care and appreciation, to give her back that wonderful day, truly a gift of art as everlasting as the photo. It was beautiful, Michael.

    ~ PG

    This photo does things to me.
    Can’t quite figure out why, it just does.
    In thinking about her life, her vitality and youth reached out to me from that sunny Saturday in 1940.
    I just had to write something about it.
    Thanks for reading it.


  9. Your mother was a pretty girl. It comforts me to believe that she is now in a place where she is once again like she was in the picture; she once again knows and takes joy in those around her. Hopefully that thought will comfort you as well.

    Amen, SPS. . .

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