The photo is 14 years old.
I’m wearing a long black dress, shawl and long earrings. My mom is in an elegant black dress, with a long slit up the side and looking glamorous.
It’s the last time we posed together in a photo - just mother and daughter. 14 years ago.
If I want to extend the generation to include my mom’s mom…well, I can’t. I don’t have a photo of just the three of us.
Think about that. I was one of two granddaughters; my mom was the only daughter, and yet there are no photos of just the three of us. Not a one.
You know why? Because the three of us didn’t only stay out of photos, but would hurdle a cow to avoid a camera.
And videos? That was a whole other adventure. My mom hid behind doors, jackets, furniture, people - at the very site of that blinking red light.
I've got plenty of footage of my mom running away from the video camera - but very little of her doing the things I remember her doing best.
My mom is beautiful. With her dark brown eyes and almost black hair (mostly gray these days), I thought she was stunning. But she loathed getting in photos.
She was mortified when I took up photography as a hobby (and later profession) in college.
Tucking her chin, standing behind other people or just running away, she made every effort to stay away from the camera. But she's not alone.
Women stay out of photos all of the time. Myself included.
A client brought this topic up to me two years ago, challenging me to recall the number of photos I had with my mom. Later that summer, as my brothers and I planned for the 70th birthday party for both of our folks, we were reminded of just how few photos our mother was in.
The gammet literally spanned from my little brother's first holy communion to his high school graduation. A full decade. A decade.
Because what happens when most women end up in photos?
We hate ourselves for it.
"Oh my goodness I am so fat."
"Is that what I really look like?"
"I am such a whale……."
And do you know what happens when we do that?
We deprive our loved ones of memories.
I don’t have any photos of me with just my grandmothers. Think about that.
I was one of only nine grandchildren on my mom's side, and one of 19 on my dad's side.
But I have no photos of just me with either of my grandmothers.
And I have very limited photos of me with my mom.
Maybe that’s harder these days, to stay out of photos. Because there are cameras everywhere we look, on phones, and iPads and well, just everywhere.
But I still see women refusing to be photographed.
We avoid mirrors, we avoid photos, we avoid reflections of ourselves - mostly based on our own individual body dysmorphia. And I don’t use that term lightly. It seems like most women have a certain perception of themselves that doesn’t always line up with reality.
And I’m no exception to this rule.
When I first joined Facebook, I didn't post any photos of myself. All I could imagine was people from my past judging my appearance the way I did. I thought everyone else was judging me for all of the same flaws that I saw everyday in the mirror.
Not once did I think of someone uttering a kindness about me.
Photos and videos are important because they jog our memories. I know my mom and grandmothers were around me a lot as a kid. I know they were at birthday parties and holidays. But knowing that is different than seeing a photo of me sitting on my Dad's lap and remembering that he blew out the candles out with me.
I don’t have kids. But I have a niece and nephew that I think are pretty awesome.
As they get older, I’d like them to have evidence that I got down on the floor and played with them. Or that I got in the pool in a sports bra and my brother's gym shorts because I didn't have a bathing suit but they wanted me to swim with them anyway.
Those are not flattering photos. But I genuinely hope that Ady and J.D., when looking at those photos, remember that Aunt Kimmie was up for anything.
I have some very unflattering pictures of myself with the two of them. I see the bad hair, the awful tan line, the sports bra from 1997 that I should probably throw out. But I hope when they look at those pictures years from now that they will remember that we had fun.
That someday they will come across a photo on their computer (I mean we don't print them anymore) of the three of us swimming in that four foot pool and that they will smile. A big broad smile because they remember the fun.
Looking at photos of yourself without judgment is more than just hard; it is a life-long practice. But allowing yourself to get into pictures so that your family and friends and kids especially can think of you as the fun, loving, kind person that you are is worth the trade off.
It's Mother's Day. People who love you will want to buy you dinner, buy you flowers, and take pictures with you.
So I implore you - get in those photos. Embrace those moments. You are loved. You are special. You are kind.
Let people love you. You are worthy. You are worthy of that love and appreciation.