When a baby is first born, one of the great joys of parents and grandparents is taking photographs of the new arrival. However, 12 years ago, when my first grandchild, “Maddy,” was born in Odessa, we had little opportunity to use our cameras. For the first two weeks of her life she was in the neonatal ICU, attached to all sorts of tubes and wires. Only two visitors were allowed at a time — usually Vanessa and Rush, her concerned parents. Once when I went in with my son, I took Carole’s camera and managed to take four pictures. My favorite shot was of Maddy’s father leaning over her crib with a delighted, loving smile on his face.
That picture reminded me of my favorite snapshot from my own infancy. Taken by one of those old Kodak black box cameras in a semi-dark room, the photo shows my dad Rush standing watchfully over me in my bassinet. In the 82 years since it was taken, that picture has come to symbolize daddy’s continual caring presence throughout my life. Today, when I look at that photograph, I still feel his love — even though he’s been dead over 36 years.
I hope that Maddie will grow to treasure the picture that I took of her and her dad as much as I value the photo of me and her great-grandfather.
Strange as it may seem, over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate my baby picture for who wasn’t in it as much as for who was. Daddy was alone with me in that snapshot because my mother was the one who took the picture. (Looking back, I don’t remember my dad ever having a camera in his hand.) On this Mother’s Day weekend when I look at that beloved photograph, I also remember my mother who was always there for me — even though she wasn’t always in the pictures.
As I look back on my childhood, I realize how much my mother sacrificed for me, although she would have said that it was all joy. Bessie was a 21st century woman in the 40s and 50s, successfully juggling career and family without the benefit of a car, fast food or a smartphone. Her faith in God was unshakable, winsome, and motivated her to a life of service. Besides being my mother, her mission in life was establishing libraries in Baptist churches.
My mother took great delight in me — sometimes to my embarrassment. She was determined to give me the best and expected the best from me in return. One of the most lasting gifts she gave me was a lifelong love of books and reading. She wasn’t at my elbow every moment, but wherever she was, she had my best interest at heart.
Mothers often work for the good of their children behind the scenes — taking the pictures rather than being in them. We owe them our deepest gratitude. Because of such love, precious memories are made and preserved for a lifetime.
And when I thumb through the photos of my life, I discover that, even when I was unaware, God’s loving presence has always been part of the picture. What about you?
Lord, thank you for our mothers. May the pictures of love we leave our children last them a lifetime and beyond. Amen.
John Paul Carter is a resident of East Parker County and a regular contributor to the Weatherford Democrat.