I was born sick, still had jaundice when I got home, so she would bundle me up and place me by a window to soak up the sun. It’s a Long, Long Song explores the beauty, love, struggle, and search for identity that has evolved through my relationship with my mother.
Susan Sontag writes about the family photo album as a ‘portable kit of images that bears witness to its connectedness,’ going on to say that, ‘photography becomes a rite of family life just when…the very institution of family undergoes radical surgery’. Even as a kid, I was captivated by my mother as a subject (the polaroid from Christmas 1999, for example). It points to the visceral act of photographing my mother that continues to this day, reminding me that despite the tumultuous journey, my mom has often been the destination: something to be understood, or at the very least, seen.
Growing up, my single mother worked a lot. Between me, my brother, her boyfriend, and the TV, we all competed for her attention. I needed her: the care, love, attention, guidance that I expected of her as a mother, and when she fell short, which was often, I resented her for it, and that gap between us grew wider.
Nowadays, she’s eager to pose and sets aside time for this work, for me. And I am more forgiving, understanding, accepting. The camera has both witnessed and forged this dynamic, this bridge that at times I considered impossible.
On birthdays, my mother sings Las Mañanitas, a classic song from Mexico that serenades the person being born, usually in the morning. They are encouraged to take in the day, soak up the sun and hear the birds sing; the moon is gone, you’ve left the womb. Although my Spanish is limited, when she sings this song ‘in our tongue,’ it reaches a place deep inside of me, a place that has always been there, that defies limitations of time, space, ego.
It is that baby warmed by the sun, that misunderstood teenager, the adult who has come to admire my mother, our roots, our struggle. It is the part of me that is also my mother.”
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