You don't have to call yourself a writer to write meaningful vignettes about your life. There are some notable books that can guide you on the journey of writing your life stories, and our blog regularly offers advice on the topic. Sometimes, though, all you need is a little inspiration.
With that in mind, this is the first in a series of contributions from memory-keepers: some who write for a living, and some who don't but are brave enough to pick up pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Each of them uses a photograph as a prompt for writing a little life story. And each of them provides not only a wonderful short read, but a fine and unique example of how you too may approach telling the stories behind your family pictures.
I hope to make this series, "Pictures Into Words," a regular feature on the site; if you would like to contribute, please reach out via email or social media (Twitter or Instagram)—I would love to share your stories as inspiration, too.
Without further ado, part one in our series...
Pictures Into Words:
“My Mother, the Most Beautiful Woman in the Room”
By Rachel Brodsky
I don’t think it’s unusual for a daughter to view her mother as the most beautiful woman in the room. I certainly did. I was sure there was something that separated my mom from all other mothers. Maybe it was how tall she was, with her height clocking in at 5’9"—unusually lanky for a Jewish woman. Equally uncommon for a member of the tribe were her chest and backside, which were flat as pancakes—physical features she used to bemoan. But I thought those things, combined with her long, thin legs, made her look elegant and model-esque. I wanted to be naturally tall and thin when I grew up, too. I wanted to literally stand out from the crowd.
I used to stare, mesmerized, at a professional photo of the two us taken when I was barely a year old. My parents got me all dressed up for Baby’s First Photo Shoot, selecting a lacy white dress, a matching headband, and a string of long, Flapper-like pearls. They sat me down in a rocking chair holding a teddy bear, standing up on a white shag carpet, and each parent held me as they grinned into the camera. I remember thinking that this photo of my mom holding me in her arms was her at her most stunning. The way she, too, is dressed in white, looking up with a calm, quiet grace, seemed to radiate an uncommon mixture of innocence and wisdom.
Even as I—and the photo of us together—grew older, my mom still never seemed to age. Perhaps part of that has to do with the fact that she’s blessed with enviable genes—even today she’s well past 50 and still only has a smattering of barely visible gray hair. Maybe it’s also because she has maintained the same mid-length, feathery haircut decade after decade. Maybe it’s because she works out every week, stresses the importance of healthy foods (something that used to drive me insane as a kid, for obvious reasons), and never goes too heavy on the makeup—all habits I picked up once I got old enough to care about appearances.
Of course her beauty went beyond looks. She had, and still has, an openness, an honest streak, that let her smartly confront a lot of my teenage conundrums. When I was 10, I asked if I could begin shaving my legs. Not only did she agree, but she showed me how to do it without nicking myself. When I was 13 and started showing interest in makeup, she took me to the Clinique counter and bought me a starter kit. Fortunately, this never extended to anything truly embarrassing (it’s not like she bought me condoms in high school or college or quizzed me about my sex life), but the fact that Mom was inherently so open to discussing femininity and womanhood—no matter what the topic—just made her seem more progressive than most. Never mind the fact that she could easily pass for my cool, younger aunt instead of my mother.
Almost 30 years have gone by since this photo of us was taken. Her face has grown a few lines, her hair’s a little shorter, and usually I see her in glasses. But it's her inner elegance that has not changed a bit. I see it every time I look at her—the woman who is still the most beautiful one in the room.
Rachel Brodsky is a writer and editor living in New York. She currently works for SPIN.com. She also has two cats, one of whom is named “Jones” for Sigourney Weaver's tabby in Alien.