Somewhere lost in a box at my Dad’s house, or maybe at this point only burned into my mind, is a photo of my mom taken a few days after she became a mother. She’s standing at their front door in tiny Premont, Texas, holding a swaddled baby--my older brother. She has a gentle smile on her face. Her hair is cut short and it holds her waves perfectly. She wears a simple, lovely dress and maybe even pantyhose and pumps. After all, it was November 1969 and my mom was the kind of woman who wouldn’t show bare legs past Labor Day, even in sunny south Texas.
Beyond that, the details of the photo escape me. But the impression it made on me is unforgettable. Everything about the image said my mother was beginning a brand-new chapter of her life. Unchartered territory, right there on the doorstep.
When I brought home my own first born, I recall being a mess of emotions and exhaustion. My eyes were swollen and achy from 12 hours of squeezing them shut in pain followed by 24 hours of holding them open in awe. Omigod she’s really here, she’s really here. Cannot stop looking at this beautiful thing.
Once we pulled into our driveway, I should have been ready to collapse. Instead, I uncharacteristically set aside vanity and asked my husband to take a photo of me with our new daughter. I wanted to be standing at the front door, cradling my treasure...just like the photo of my mom, but minus the pantyhose.
We lived in that little house for almost four years. It was the first home we owned, the first time we felt like we might actually become grown-ups, even though we painted the outside a bright, playful purple. We spent more hours cultivating that yard and garden than we have spent at all our subsequent homes combined. We hosted outdoor movies in the backyard and dinner parties out of the one-person kitchen. We made sweet friends and great memories on that block.
But the single biggest memory I have of 29th St. is that it was there that I crossed the threshold and became a mother. Today when I look back at photos of our home, I always come back to the front porch. I stare at myself standing there, exhausted and awkward, by the door. And as I have done with so many photos of my own mom, I soak up the details to try to remember who that woman was.
Since then, there have been two more children and a few more front doors. But this one, this was the first, and it opened up a whole new world. A whole new me.