Sunday, February 19, 2012

What Story Does That Photograph Tell?

A recent story in Parade Magazine, My Story in Five Faces (February 19, 2012) is just the kind of thing that motivates my writing.  So I decided to write a small portion my own story using photographs of me throughout my five decades, just as the writer of the piece did. 

Perhaps my readers will be inspired to dust off their own photo albums and if not write a life-story blog post, maybe they will verbally share the memories that long-ago self elicits.

Although I've shared this picture in a past post, it felt right for me to start my pictorial life story with the first image of me.  This is me with my mother, Patricia Ann Oberlander Gioia.  I think she is smiling because after birthing 3 boys, she finally has her girl.  I am bundled and secure in her arms, yet that would last but a year.  Just a month after my first birthday my mother would be gone. 

I wonder if my subconscious has any remnants of memory of these moments?

I have just received my First Holy Communion.  That is my grandmother's prized Lilac bush behind me.  This was my day to be a princess.  I see how special I feel in this picture and know I have made my grandma proud.

I am not longer a practicing Catholic (or religious person of any denomination), but I did inherit my grandmother's love of gardening. 

Here I am, all grown up and on my own.  High school is behind me, college is over and I have the whole world of opportunity in front of me.  Here I am in Happy Camp, California.  I am on the last leg of a post-graduation road trip with the man who would soon become my first husband and the father of my children.  The path to that future is filled with many harrowing bumps in the road, but at this moment I feel the freedom that comes from having no responsibilities (school, a job, children).  I am surrounded by things I love in nature: the Siskiyou Mountains, pine trees, the Klamath River, and wildlife. 

The memories made during this time and the things I learned here formed much of the woman I am now.

In my third decade I become a wife for the second time.  This union is the beginning of stability for me and my daughters.  As restless as I am and as often as I resisted the stability, my logical self knew this to be good for me.  Twenty-four years later (which happens to be tomorrow), I am still restless but acknowledge the good fortune I have in being loved and cared for by a devoted partner.   The lessons I've learned from being a wife and mother have enriched me beyond all measure.

I celebrated my 45th birthday on Half Dome Mountain in Yosemite National Park.  With me on that momenteous night of a full moon is my best friend since the age of nine, Nancy.  For an entire summer I am surrounded once again by the beauty of nature unleashed.  I am also at the beginning of a new career path, one that ends with me going back to school for a graduate degree and working professionally as an archaeologist and historian. 

While I can see in this picture that my cute, young self is evolving into a mature woman's body, I understand deep down how vanity is replaced by the love of friends, family, and possibilities.

I am fifty-four years old now. I am the grandmother of 3, the proud mother of two, a devoted and loyal wife to one and friend to many. I have found my footing in life, yet continue to push the boundaries as I am not yet ready to stop learning and experiencing things. 

My future has yet to unfold and I have yet to discover all that there is to this life. I am still searching.

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