Happy Mother’s Day to My Mother, the Artist

My mom sometimes worries – as many moms do – that she hasn’t been the best mom.  But “best” in this case, as in every case, is just relative.  Who in this case would be the definitive judge of all moms in terms of being “the best?”  Donna Reed? Michelle Obama? Angelina Jolie?  The idea of a “best mom contest” is kind of hilarious, maybe because it is such a personal role.

One of my mom’s large-format photos of me as a toddler. This is one of her favorite shots. She always reminds me of the story behind the photo – this was the day after Christmas.

True, my mother was not waiting for me when I got home from school with freshly baked cookies.  Or tagging along on my school trips. Instead of living her life through me and my activities, my mom was pursuing her passion for art, and bringing me along on that ride of discovery.  I can think if no better way of learning about life and living than through art, and for that, my mom is the best mom, for me.

When I was in her belly in Togo, West Africa, she was scouring the African beaches for the most beautiful shells, and taking them home and sketching them.

My mom with me as a newborn on the steps of our home in Lomé, Togo, West Africa.

When I was a toddler, she was pursuing her masters in photography at Indiana University and using me as her model as she experimented with large format photography.

When I was in grammar school, she was forging new artistic territory in our border home in Southern California, setting up photography exhibits of her hip-shots in Mexicali and large format photography of Mexican families.   She would often bring me with her to Mexico when she was shooting.  Even as a six-year-old I would get nervous crossing the border, and worry that I would forget where I was born when the border patrol agent asked me.  She would always patiently remind me.

Another one of my mom’s classics, this one of me and my cousins.

When I was in high school, she was working long hours as a newspaper photographer, documenting the stories that needed to be told in our low-income community.  She would bring me along on stories she knew I would especially love, like watching baby pigs be born late one night, and visiting a buffalo farm.

My mom shooting the desert outside my hometown.

She painted in the little spare time that she had.  Now, my mom’s art is sculpting the environment of her backyard, a garden oasis in the desert.

A recent shot of this year’s spring blooms in my mom’s garden.

I thank my mom for giving me a love and ability for art both through nature and nurture.

One of my mom’s beautiful shots of her garden.

But better yet, the drive behind my mom’s pursuance of art is perhaps the best qualities she has – curiosity, passion, intelligence, and independence.  Having had a mom that waited for me to get home every day would have given me a lot of security, but instead I was given something that I think I needed more.  Independence and curiosity are instrumental qualities for being a successful traveler and photographer, and I don’t think I would have ever been able to realize my life of traveling without these skills my mom taught me as a role model and as her apprentice.

My mom enjoying shooting for fun on a trip we took to London.

So on this day, I hope my mom, and all moms, know how much they have given us, and can challenge themselves to enjoy that, without worry or doubt, for at least the twenty-four hours of this awesome day, Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day Mom!!


    • Thanks Eliza!! Yes, I’ll say. I think my motto has always been, “never a dull moment.” There are worse ways to live I suppose. 😉 (PS – I’m slow to respond these days because i scheduled these posts for publication while I was on a tour. Wrapping up the tour, though, thank goodness! Thanks for your thoughts, as always.)

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