My mother painted a picture of me and presented it to me when we were in Florida last week.
As is her way, she prefaced the gift with, “It’s not very good, but it leaves you something to remember me by.”
Like I’ll ever need a picture to remember my mother.
It is hard to receive a picture of yourself, because no matter how much it looks like you, you stare at it thinking it could be better. My first reaction was, “Gee, couldn’t you have made me look a bit more like Michelle Phieffer? I mean, did you have to make my nose so big and my chin so prominent?”
“It looks exactly like you,” Mark said.
“Well, that’s the point. Does it have to look so like . . . .me?”
“You don’t like it,” my mother said.
“I LOVE IT.” I quickly corrected, and I meant it.
I love it because she painted it herself. And honestly, I think she did a great job. It is hanging in my office now, and I keep staring at it, thinking it is an amazing likeness – remarkable considering she’s primarily a hobbyists painter- she never really studied art seriously.
When I look at this picture, I imagine my mother spending hours dabbling over that canvas, remembering my face, trying to capture the quality in my smile that she remembers from when I was small. Something humbling in that.
I do look young on the canvas. I guess in my mother’s eyes I will always be her little girl.
I said, “Thank you for leaving out the wrinkles, and playing down the freckles.”
“I guess I don’t notice your wrinkles,” she said, then added, “Maybe you can’t tell, but I put you in a leotard too, because that is how I will always think of you. I thought it fit best.”
Sure enough, she did. That makes this picture even more endearing to me. Not that I care what I have on, but I’m pleased that my mother chose to represent me in the way she felt was most authentic. I guess, deep down, we all want our parents to accept us for who we are. In my case, I feel my mother is honoring my identity in this small act.
My mother wanted to leave behind something to remember her by. I can’t imagine a better gift. Not only does this picture prove she knows and loves me- heck, even when I am 500 miles away, she can see my face and every detail in her minds eye to capture just who her daughter is – but it also captures who she is: a woman who is talented and caring, who loves her children and wants to leave something behind for them. Perhaps this is symbolic, because what she is leaving behind in truth are children raised with enduring love – children she armed with confidence and an artistic eye all their own . That is a great accomplishment for any woman, I think.
I have other pictures my mother painted hanging in our house- mostly landscapes. I have also made a request for a picture of our horses, but she is waiting for me to send a photo, so I’ll probably add those to our personal art gallery someday too. But my Mother will never paint anything that, to me, is as touching as this special canvas.
When I look at it, I don’t just see myself. I swear, I also see my mother looking back at me.