I Write About My Life Not Just for Myself, but for My Children


monicabielankoUpon graduating high school, my mom’s parents presented her with a hope chest. The coffin-shaped cedar chest had a lock and key. She was, she later explained, supposed to use it for her trousseau. This was back in 1973 when women were generally expected to marry up right out of high school. Mom did end up getting hitched to Dad after graduation but it was because she was pregnant. The hope chest never held her trousseau, it became storage for all her keepsakes: books, papers, journals, photos, baby books for the four of us kids.

When I was 12 or 13 I realized what was in the hope chest that, up until that time, I had viewed as just another piece of furniture. I was in junior high and had discovered boys and mean girls. Because I had no sisters, finding out who my mom was when she was my age became extremely important to me. Did Mom go through the same highs and lows I was experiencing as a newly minted teenager? Were we the same? Would we have been friends if we met at that age?

Unfortunately, Mom only had one journal for me to pilfer. It was from when she was 17 years old and contained only a few mundane entries. I was disappointed those sparse journal entries and a few photos at Grandma’s house were my only direct connection to my teenage mom. Sure she could tell me stories, but they came from the woman with twenty years of hindsight. I wanted my insight from Mom the girl, not Mom the mom. I read those few precious entries over and over in an effort to understand what Mom was like when she was a teenager and will forever lament the fact that she didn’t keep a journal.

That’s probably why this project of a girl who Photoshopped herself into her mom’s childhood photos speaks to me. It started as a blog post written by Danielle Delph, 25, and was picked up by international media. In the post called “If I Had Known My Mother Back Then,” Delph, an art director from Oregon, manages to seamlessly merge photos of herself as a child with older snapshots of her mother. The effect is startling. Mother and daughter together at the same age, presented as friends. The images show the pair “posing” together at various stages of their lives, from what appears to be toddlerhood right up through their teenage years. Within the blog, Delph explains her motivation for the project:

“I’ve always wondered if my mom and I would have been friends had we grown up together. Would we be in the same classes? Would we have the same sense of humor? Would people tell us we were inseparable? After seeing myself in her childhood photos, I’m pretty sure we would have been great friends.”

Delph’s attempt to connect with her mom sums up what I’ve wondered about my own mother and helps explain why I have maintained a personal blog for the past ten years. It started as a chronicle of the first few years of my married life in Brooklyn but has become so much more. The blog follows my journey from girl to married woman to divorced mother. I’ve chronicled the highs and lows and all the self-discovery in between. Initially the writing was for myself and my friends but once I had kids I began to envision them — especially my daughter — reading it one day. Not only for the invaluable lessons I’ve learned the hard way but so that she can discover who I am and who I’ve been in a way that I could never learn from my own mother.

Is it important to you for your kids to learn about you as a person aside from “Mom”? How will you help them do that? Do you maintain a blog or keep a journal for that reason?

Image source: Monica Bielanko

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