Parents and Other Strangers

On Father’s Day I removed a photo that my Mom had framed of my Dad in Army uniform to scan into my computer. The photo sat on her dresser for as long as I can remember, as long as she lived. Today I went to put photo and frame back together and there between velvet backing and cardboard, a photo of my Mom and Dad that I had never seen in my life, their engagement photo apparently. They are so young and fresh looking, gazing into their future with smiles. Their long years together, their children, their gains, their losses… all ahead of them stretching far into the unknown. It is such a sweetness to see this photo now and think about the bravery it takes for a young person to say “Yes, let’s take on life together”, they look very brave to me in this photo.

My parents were a mystery to me, my whole lifetime with them. Is it always this way? It invariably seemed that there were people hidden behind the people I saw. Maybe it was the style of parenting then, when parents had to seem so absolutely sure of everything. Perhaps that was it, I never saw doubt in them and doubt is a such large part of what makes us human. I know my doubts well as I do my husband’s and daughter’s and dear friends’ … but I never saw doubt in my parents. They projected complete assurance about faith, politics and discipline , insuring they would remain veiled strangers to their children in a subtle and essential way. There was really only one thing I knew about them. I knew they loved each other with a love that stayed freshly romantic until they died within a year of each other ,well into their eighties. Truth be told, they loved their children but they loved each other most of all. My Mom confessed to me once that Dad would come into the room where she was and extend a hand and they would slow dance, she was 82 at the time. Can you just imagine?! It makes me grin from ear to ear just to think of it. And it makes me grin some more to think that the hope they had for a lifetime of love when this photo was taken was realized.

I guess if there can be only one thing you know about your parents, this isn’t too shabby a one…and yet, how very odd that these two people that brought me into the world and had so much to do with forming the woman I would eventually become ..would be, in so many ways, strangers to me.

And then, there is this delightfully unexpected gift of a photo. I see so much in their eyes: excitement, joy, innocence… and yes, there it is, a little bit of doubt !

Hi Mom! Hi Dad! So lovely to meet you at last !!


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12 Responses to Parents and Other Strangers

  1. Sara says:

    Made me cry. Thank you for writing & sharing this beautiful piece, thoughts of their young & enduring love. How fortunate to be a child of a union & love like that. Reminds me of a favourite story of my life that my Dad told. The very first morning of their marriage, he opened his eyes to see her face facing him on the pillow and his first thought was ‘this is going to be fun’. How gorgeous is that?
    What’s that saying, ‘the greatest thing a Father can do for his children is to love their Mother.’

  2. What a great story Sara! No wonder it is a favorite, gorgeous indeed,thanks for sharing it 🙂

  3. wesleytbarnaby says:

    lovely chris…could part of the reason we didn’t know our parents be that we were from the children should be seen and not heard generation”…at least we (john and i) were

  4. You actually look like your dad…this was beautiful. Thank you.

  5. Betty says:

    What a beautiful story, Chris, and how beautifully written. Your parents are, no doubt, somewhere smiling with love.
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Carol says:

    What a beautiful photo and story! WOw they look so young and wonderful… “sweet and brave”… what a nice find for Father’s Day! Yes, we not only learn about ourselves, but also our families as we age. Love the image of your dad reaching for your mom’s hand to dance!

  7. Thanks Carol, so glad you enjoyed it! I think maybe sometimes the learning comes not just with the progression of age but also with a random moment of serendipity …sometimes we just get lucky , plain and simple :).

  8. Jeanne Leonard says:

    Your words are so touching, so beautiful and so intimate. Can we really know the strings that invisibly flow between each one of us? Is part of the fun of our relationships, I wonder?
    Such a lovely, touching photo. You described it perfectly! So confident, in love, facing the future together in a fearless, loving manner. What a legacy, Chris!

    • I hadn’t thought of it as a legacy and of course it is! Thank you Jeanne! Thank you took for the thought of invisible strings, I will be thinking about that a lot, I can already tell :). And finally thanks, as always, for your thought filled and kind response 🙂

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