Out of the Box

After all of these years – I didn’t think that I’d actually kept it. The evidence. The stuff of life that gives rhyme and reason to who I once was..who I am today..and who I might still someday be. A snapshot of a younger girl and life.

Because she’s in the process of creating her own portfolio of work done in college, my daughter asked to see mine. For a moment – I didn’t think I dared to go back to that place in time..afraid of what might be long forgotten and buried..afraid to be reminded…afraid of all I might find. Dreams – fulfilled? Or dreams -  abandoned and forgotten? So much of life spent looking forwards – reaching..stretching..growing. So little time spent looking back.

What might I find..if I dared to open this particular box?? Right here..right now..and with my daughter?

There it sits collecting dust on a very high shelf. Above and beyond anyone’s reach or wandering questioning gaze. In a place that is safe, but not forgotten. A place that still exists inside of me..but nowhere else. How could I tell her that I no longer had it when it is so clearly marked ‘School Portfolio’? How could I answer her searching questions without giving myself away?

Together - we pulled it out from among the cobwebs and brushed away the years of dust. Knowing that what lay within held fragile bits that might easily break, we carefully removed the cover and opened it all up. And together – we took a ride back in time. She – getting a picture of who I was before I was her mother. Me  - looking backwards at my younger self from my younger days.

I’d forgotten. Wherever you go there you always are. I like to think that who and what I am is constantly evolving and changing, so it came as somewhat of a surprise to me to find that I'm the same as I've always been. Perhaps it’s been the years of raising children..the juggling..the building of a professional practice…the meeting of everyone else’s needs long before my own. Perhaps it’s what life does..when life does happens Or perhaps – it’s something much more than that..or something much less. Perhaps I’d gotten myself lost along the way..and am now very slowly finding an older and  more evolved, but oh-so-familiar version of who I once was. Comfortable in a skin that I’ve always worn..but one that I’d shed for so many years in exchange for a safe other.

There they were. Drawing after drawing. Carefully rendered plans and elevations…all done in pen and ink. Well thought out solutions to the hypothetical studio design problems that were never intended to see the light of day. Artwork. Sketches. Photographs. Brochures and other graphic design work done along the way. Caligraphed invitations and announcements. Something I did to earn some extra money in those days when I had nothing else.  All done by hand long before the days of technology  and computers.

She wanted to see each and every piece…each and every illustration. She went thru things carefully..trying to absorb and take it all in along the way.

'So –this WAS my mother?  This IS?'
'This is what she did..when she was my age? Before she was married? Before she had me?'

I could hear the wheels of her mind turning..asking questions that she’d never thought or dared before to ask.

She got what she came looking for. Answers to her questions. An example of a portfolio put together long before this digital age. A direction – perhaps? – as to where it is she might be going, if she chooses to follow this similar path. A little more insight and knowledge as to who this woman was and  is. The one who she only knows as ‘mom’. Her mother. She thanked me – for letting her in..for letting her see.

And I – in turn – had to thank her for being she. Grateful for the gift and opportunity to have opened up and looked inside a box that I otherwise never would.  Grateful to have done this together. Not nearly as scarey nor as disappointing as I had anticipated it to be. There – sitting high up amidst the cobwebs and dust is just plain ol’…same ol’…simple ol’ me.