“Mug Shots of Motherhood,” column for March 15, 2016

The photos look a little washed out. I never noticed it before. When did they start to fade? Maybe it was about the time I first noticed my mother’s hands sticking out of my sleeves. Time takes a toll on things like photos and mothers and hands.

Years ago, shortly before my children and I lost their dad to cancer, my daughter gave me a gift for Mother’s Day. Like her, it was a keeper. I had often joked, if not so jokingly, that in years to come she and her brothers would never know they had a mother.

Why? As the official family photographer, I was rarely more than a shadow in their photos. The only evidence of my being their mother, I said, were the wrinkles in my brow and the stretchmarks on my belly, both of which I usually tried to hide.

Hell-bent to prove me wrong, my daughter spent hours secretly combing through drawers in which I had saved hundreds of photos. I always meant to put them in albums, but somehow, in 25 years, I never found the time.

In all those snapshots of her and her brothers and their dad and their dog, she discovered a surprising number that included, of all people, me.

She sorted them with care, balancing the number of photos for each person and the ages at which they were taken, while tossing any shot that made her look less than gorgeous.

Twenty-five photos made the cut. She pasted them into a poster-size frame, overlapping the edges like the pieces of our lives. Then she wrote around the border in her very best cursive:

“All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother.”

“Every mother is like Moses. She does not enter the promised land. She prepares a world she will not see.”

“God could not be everywhere, therefore he made mothers.”

And finally, “Happy Mother’s Day! I love you _ Nan.”

She added a few pansies, possibly stolen from the neighbor’s yard, then wrapped it up and gave it to me.

I wish you could see it.

For almost 20 years, it has hung above my desk. The desk has moved a few times, but the collage always moved with it. Those 25 snapshots tell the story of the first 25 years of my life as a mother.

It’s a story I never want to forget: Holding my daughter moments after she was born. Hanging onto my youngest on a carousel when he was 3. Hugging my oldest the day he left home for college.
Beaches, birthdays, ski trips, camping, Christmas, proms, parades and lots of graduations.

In every photo, my hair is a different style. And a different color. It looks like a catalog for cheap wigs. But what a treasure. The story it tells is this:

I was young once, and I was their mother. We wore tacky clothes. The house was a mess. So was my hair. But on the whole, we were happy. We were having the time of our lives.

I told you that story to tell you this. Mother’s Day is just around the corner. It’s a big corner, but if you’re like me, you might need a head start. I’ll bet you know someone who’d be thrilled to get a “picture story”of their life. If not for Mother’s Day, a birthday or just for no reason at all.

If you make one for yourself, you can be a whole lot pickier about how your hair looks in the photos. I’m just saying.

Maybe I’ll do one called “My Life as a Mother, Part II.” I’m not as young as I was _ or as old as I hope to be _ but I’m still a mother. I’m also a nana to five little people and a wife to a guy they call Papa Mark. We are having the time of our lives.

So are you. Come what may, today is the time of our lives.

For “Part II,” I’ve got tons of photos, especially of the little people. It will need a really big frame. I’ll get started on it any day now. As soon as I find time.

Maybe in the next 25 years.


  1. Nicole Kirk says

    Hi Sharon my name is Nicole and we are cousin. Your mom and my grandma were sisters. My grandma’s name Virginia dear and my mom’said name Melinda sue. I enjoy reading your columns. My mom has often spoke fondly of you. If you have time to talk please send me an email.

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    I feel better knowing I am not the only one with drawers full of old photos… The thing that worries me more is that I have a phone and computer full of new photos… But will anyone find them 50 years from now????

  3. wao !! What a detailed description of pictures and pictures telling all about life and story of mother , yes no body can be compared with mother ! thank you , thank you so much for reminding all mothers to preserve those pictures and I could not find time to organize them , may be one day I would , who knows when ? sending love to your daughter who could find time for arranging them in a picture frame . And we wish you live more than 25 years to see many more graduations and grown up grand kids !! thank u again and have a wonderful Mother’s Day !!

  4. Rebecca Bishop says

    As always, you hit it right on the mark! Thank you for your loving, inspiring words.

  5. You are so much like me. as I have been reading your stories for the past few years, I hear and see myself in almost all of the. Keep writing our stories as moms and grandmas. Maybe we could compile a book of true short stories one day, maybe in the next 25 years. lol

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