Sunday, October 25, 2015

Babies and time

A peek inside the mind of an anxious mother: I have trouble deleting photos of my kids.  It can be out of focus, blurred from motion, dark, but I'm still going to keep it.  I'm afraid that child will die and all I will have will be my pictures of them.  What if that blurry picture is all I have left of Michael's "crazy face"?

When I was thinking this, though, I realized Michael doesn't even do his crazy face anymore.  I still have Michael, but I don't have that Michael.  So I'm stuck with the blurry pictures anyway.

Above is baby Marko.  I don't have baby Marko in my life anymore.  I have five-year-old Marko, but that's not very similar.  He isn't that size, shape, ability level, or appearance.  He doesn't remember being that baby.  The things I loved about him -- his smell, his tiny little hands, his milk-drunk face -- are gone.

Anyone that we love may change.  We reassure ourselves by reminding ourselves of the things that didn't change.  They changed their hair, but they're the same personality.  They changed their opinions, but they kept the moral anchor that helps them choose their opinions.  And of course, they remember our history together and all our in-jokes.

But babies?  They change completely.  There is pretty much nothing about them that stays the same over time.

That's why the love of a mother is so special.  With anyone else who loves us, we can say, truthfully or not, "They only love X about me.  They only love Y.  They might stop loving me if I changed."  We fear that.  But our mother, we know is going to love us no matter how we change, because we've already changed drastically and they still love us.  That's why we talk of a "face only a mother could love."  Everyone deserves this kind of love, and there's nothing worse than growing up without it, as some do.

A mother strings together the disparate points in time, the different selves the child is, and chooses to love the substance of the child -- the whole changing thing they are.  I love Marko because he was once that tiny baby, and because he is such a joy at five, and because someday he will be a grown man who doesn't remember as much about his own story as I do.  And because each day has led into the next day, so that while he changes, I also change, and each of us strings together these days into our lives -- the love remaining constant.  But most of all, because he is him, and he is a person I made up my mind to love.

I miss his baby-self, and Michael's crazy face, and Miriam's tiny little feet.  But it doesn't really matter, because my love has grown with them to find new things about them to love, every day.


Enbrethiliel said...


Do you know the ABBA song Slipping through My Fingers?

The Sojourner said...

I have major picture anxiety. I am not even sure exactly why, though it's probably something like what you said. I got really mad at J a month or two ago because he WOULD. NOT. HOLD. STILL. for pictures. And then I realized I was being totally unreasonable and tried to rein it in a little.

He is so going to talk about me in therapy someday.

Sheila said...

E, I haven't, I'll look it up when I get a chance.

S, if you can adjust the shutter speed on your camera/phone, do it and leave it that way. It's the only way I can get good pictures. If it's fully automatic, bring more light in and the shutter will speed up on its own. I can't get very good pictures of Miriam these days because every time she spots the camera she runs at it full tilt. But outside I sometimes get *okay* pictures because the light is bright.

Cameras are very comforting to me usually, because it gives the sense that you're freezing time and capturing something fleeting. It helps me cope with the sadness I feel about how time races by and my memory quickly forgets most of the moments. But they can also increase the anxiety because you think, "oh, I NEED to capture EVERYTHING." And of course when you do that, you miss the moments altogether.

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