Losing a mother at any age is life altering. I'll write that again. Losing a mother at any age is life altering. But, losing her as a young child is life defining--for better AND for worst. I am defined by the loss of Dorothy Lee Ivory. I am strong, and independent, because I loss her. I am clingy, and guarded, because I loss her. I love my children fiercely, but raise them to live without me. Teaching them independence is paramount for me. My imminent demise doesn't scare me; it doesn't limit me. It drives me. It grounds me. It keeps me present, but acutely forward thinking (and moving).
There are exactly three photographs of my mother, that I'm aware of.
One is a painting with my father and older brothers and sisters. My brother, closest to me in age and I weren't born, so we're not with her in this image.
The second was a make-up shot with her holding my brother and I on her lap, but my dad and other siblings aren't in it. We're dressed in matching vests, both hand made by her own two hands. I love that picture.
And lastly, there's a picture of her alone. She's wearing a small, reserved smile. I call it the Mona Lisa picture of her.
I get no sense of who she was in those pictures. She's always been mysterious to me. I resented her for leaving me to be "in a better place" and I idolized her because my siblings did.
As I've become a
wife, a mother and a friend, I find myself feeling robbed by not knowing who my mother really was. She's been enrolled among the saints now, and only great things are spoke about her. But didn't she get mad at my dad? Did she curse him? Who were her friends? Did she have lunch dates with them? Saturday morning shopping trips? Was she the spiritual friend who prayed with her friends? The funny one? Did she dance in the kitchen with my brothers and sisters? Or laugh out loud? Did my mother like a good party?
I don't know and I feel robbed by my ignorance; by the loss of her legacy. On her birthday this year, I ached for that loss. Out of that nagging pain, I decided to capture the essence of who I am for my children and their children. I want them to have images of me living. I want the images to speak to them. To answer their questions about who I was; about what I valued; about the people I loved.
I called my (local) friends; the ones who cry with me and pray for me, and stay up talking to me for hours, if I need them. I told them about my vision. I told them I would love to have an image of women loving one another, shining together, uplifting and laughing together. These ideas are the cornerstones of who I am, in the wake of losing my mother. They to share this value, so they gathered their d