Dear Mom | Your eyes seek the camera

by Elouise

Four Generations Late 1944

Your eyes seek the camera
Draw me into your beauty
Your calm demeanor
and stylish dress.

Are you looking out at me?
Who holds the camera
Capturing your direct gaze?
Is it my father?

I try to imagine my way
Back to this moment.
Close strangers to each other,
Bound by family secrets,
A fog of silence
Behind pleasant faces.

* * *

Dear Mom,

I could look at this photo for hours. Especially at you. You look happy, calm, almost relaxed, and beautiful. I can’t help noticing that you’re the only one looking directly into the camera. I think we’re at Great-Grandma Petsy’s house in California. Four generations captured in one photo.

It looks like I’m about 1 year old. Maybe it’s my birthday. That would mean Dad is back from the TB sanatorium, and the two of you are learning to live together with me around. I can’t imagine what life was like for you.

Then there’s my California Grandpa standing right behind me looking cheery. And Petsy, his mother. Prim and proper, always the French lady. This time with her hands almost hidden behind her arms. I never knew her except as an older woman. And then she died.

Four  generations. Three with secrets. And there I am, sitting in the middle of all those happy faces with secrets. Secret longings, secret regrets about the past, secret hopes for the future. Perhaps secret desires to be young again.

I think this picture was taken after we moved from North Carolina to Washington state. I wonder whether Sister #2 is also in the picture. Hidden behind your dress.

Maybe that’s why you’re looking straight at the camera with a little smile in your eyes. Did you have a secret? Was Dad holding the camera? I rather think he was.

I also wonder who picked out your beautiful outfit, and whose necklace you’re wearing. I don’t remember that you ever wore anything that stylish when I was older. Your face is full of life—the kind that’s positive, happy and full of joy.

Sometimes I want to freeze this moment and live in it forever. Even though I can’t see what’s behind the surface.

Love and hugs,

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 May 2015
Photo taken November 1944