I always use this photo of my mom from around 1970 every Mother’s Day (or on her birthday!) because of two things: 1. It’s cool (of course!) and 2. There’s a lot of my late dad in this picture, too, even if he isn’t in the photo.
I wasn’t around yet when this photo was taken, so I asked mom about it. It was a Sunday and our family friend Bob Johnson had visited from the US. She cooked lunch for everyone, and the house was just three years old. My dad designed it, and because he was just a young junior architect back then, they took a big risk and got a huge loan just to build it.
I look closely at each part of the kitchen and recognize things I’ve grown up with: the Corelle plates with red borders, the rounded refrigerator (wish we still had that), and the beer bottle at the back which she festooned with garden blooms every morning. The only pieces that remain from this photo is the cookie jar in the foreground, relegated to become a spare change catchall, and the wood veneer cabinets.
I’ve seen this particular pantsuit in real life, and it was a loud psychedelic print with sequins all over it–something that was terribly fancy and uncomfortable to cook in at home on a Sunday morning! But I guess, that’s how she dressed up back then. Dad, on the other hand, would be in his collared tennis shirt and tennis shorts, chatting up the guest and the kids on the front porch.
The rest of my mom’s mid-century photos are of herself or with a gaggle of children (mostly my older siblings) on a sofa in my grandmother’s 1950s house. My dad designed that as well, and it was a cool house, too, but it now only exists in our memories.
Mom lives with me now, and is itching to go home (but we can’t due to lockdown restrictions). She putters around my kitchen, complaining about it lacking a second counter (it’s tiny), and missing the garden outside her own kitchen window. The old home she sometimes describes is a memory of what it was in 1973, or ’83, or ’93, or ’03–but isn’t that what comfort is? Remembering a space and time when life was at its best.