The recount of a photo.


This photo was taken in the room where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would often stay while in Mexico – in a village, with a dog, that locals claim to be over twenty years of age.

High up in the Sierra Madras, next to an old abandoned mining site, that years ago (hundreds even) used mules to cart salt up into the mountains for the smelting process. The mineral that without, we cannot live and yet in excess, can kill us.

This photo was taken in a Hacienda, that is surrounded by avocado trees. The tour guide had told us that we could take the avocados that had fallen from the branches to the ground, as they were most likely the ripest. So we did, while picking through the piles of organic debris, ever so carefully, so as to avoid disturbing large insects that we feared were lurking beneath the fallen fruit. We had the intention of consuming the avocados back in our hotel room, but they were not yet ripe enough to eat. I ended up (accidentally) transporting them back to Canada, but by then, they were smashed to a pulp – my hastily packed luggage had turned them to guacamole. My son, bitterly disappointed, as avocado is his favourite food, and he had wanted to see how they would taste freshly grown.

This photo was taken by my eldest son, eighteen at the time, two months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, two weeks before his high school graduation. Seven weeks post surgery, one month after the pathology report came back. Nearly two years ago..

This photo was taken after I had told my son that he could invite a friend to come along with us, on this, his graduation trip.  He had completed high school with IB honours, in a year when many children had also finished in high  standing.  The school had run out of academic sashes. He did not get to wear one, as he was worried about speaking up, when the kids who arrived after him, grabbed them first.

This photo was taken the night after my son, his friend, and I, went to the Discotheque at our resort. The two of them had too much to drink and didn’t want to wake up for our 6 am call and a full day excursion to the mountains. An excursion, in which they would see the old town of, San Sebastian de Oeste. A town that was founded in 1605 and named for a saint who survived an execution attempt (and then died years later after a the second successive attempt.) My son, had slept on the bathroom floor that previous night, and had drunk the water from the tap, even though I had warned him not to. Even though, I had told him to slow down with the free margaritas, as tequila is like a drug that propels you out of your body and causes you to believe things that are not true ( like the belief that the cool tiles of the bathroom floor are the best place to lay down and take rest.) What did it matter, in the mind of a boy who had recently been diagnosed with cancer? Even though, his only risk factors were the prevalence of the disease in Caucasians and his youth;  risk factors that he was unable to negate by choices that he could have made – that I could have made for him, as his mother.

This photo was taken eighteen years after this same boy, my first-born, the only one born at home, surrounded by three midwives and three generations of women, emerged (with a large cone head) after five hours of pushing, to a 19-year-old mother who had conceived her first child while living in a resort town. The black sheep made darker by her reckless behaviour. The one who everyone had said, since she was small, was always too hard on herself.
He was the resulting child who made them all forget that they ever had cause for worry. He was the child who taught me that I was capable.

This photo was taken sixteen years before I met my future husband in college (while trying to right the wrongs of my high school years and my apathy toward education.) A man who became my best friend, until he came over for coffee one day and then slipped into the role of being my lover (after reading Walt Whitman aloud and then telling me that the Velvet Underground had written a song about my eyes.)

The same man who legally adopted my son and has always loved him as his own. The man who I can no longer keep, as in his keeping I shrank from my self. And, in the decision to leave, my therapist told me, that I had waited 10 years too long.

This photo was taken 9 years after my son had sat in my lap and I held him while he cried that I was never there for him anymore, because I was working full-time, with a staff of 18, and allowed work calls to slice into my time with my children, because I had to work, as at the time, his father could not.

This photo was taken 5 years after my son came out of the closet, via social media and even though it shouldn’t have been a shock, it still was. A part of me had thought that his love of pink dresses and Barbie fashion was just a phase in gender exploration, from a boy whose parents were open-minded and not ones to foist gender role expectations on their children. It was his father, who had said tenderly to him, that is was okay, always okay to be who you are. I had smiled and nodded and hugged him, but I was worried, always worried that someone would hurt him because of who he is – who he was meant to be.

This photo was taken a year and half before his father and I split this time and a year after we split the for the first time.

This photo was taken by my beautiful son. Who has always, somehow, managed to keep going, even though much of his going was tough. He will soon turn twenty and enter the age where, everything and nothing in life is apparent all at once. My radiant boy, who slept through the night at 10 weeks, and danced and sang, and chased butterflies when he was supposed to be a goal keeper and flooded the kitchen once when I overslept, (although, I often over slept) and then caused me not to sleep, after he climbed out of his crib and left the house, out the back door in his diaper, to visit the neighbourhood, when the sun was just cresting over the horizon.
He has made up for all of the heart attacks that he has given both his father and I, one million times over. He has flooded our hearts with knowledge and wisdom and love. He was our impetus to grow up and out of our youth – even though, we sometimes went unwillingly and with child like resistance. He has always taught me more than I thought was fair for a child to know. He is the grace of our household.

And…. he still sometimes calls meMama.

This photo was taken by a boy, now a man. A man who wants to leave home someday soon (too soon) and journey overseas for adventure and further learning and to see the sun crest the horizon in another country – one of his own choosing. Even today, I am awestruck at the gorgeous simplicity of this photo and how he could he take such a compelling picture, at eighteen years of age, one and a half years ago, in a Hacienda outside of Puerto Vallarta two months after his world fell apart.

I am still learning from him. Always learning.