Mother’s Day Reflections

Mother’s Day has passed, flowers are wilting in vases, and colorfully witty or sentimental cards are still floating around in many households waiting to be stashed away as keepsakes. Most mothers are hopelessly sentimental. I am one of them.

This year my Mother’s Day was a mixed bag, some celebration and quite a bit of reminiscing. I looked back into the past and into the magic glass ball for answers to what the future will hold.

My motherhood has not been an easy one — probably none of them are, but on Mother’s Day we — mothers — want to and are expected to be full of smiles and happiness. But what if you are not that happy, what if you are disappointed, what if you are hurting? I guess we have to remember that joys and pains are part of motherhood, then smile again….

Here are some images I gathered on that theme, garnished with my words.

Sculpture of mother holding child

I cherish this small statuette symbolizing motherhood. I received it from my friend Pam, also a mother, several years ago for memories of our motherhood and friendship. The statuette sits comfortably on one of the bookshelves in our Tucson home, but ties me strongly to Cape Cod. So I took its picture using a beige and blue background representing the desert of Tucson and the cool waters around the Cape.

Framed portrait of Alicja Mann and her two sons

So here I am as a mother! This is a painting created from my very favorite photo of the three of us — me and my two sons — in the 1980s. It is from the time of my single motherhood and it will always represent for me our strong unity during those challenging, yet happy, times — regardless what our reality is today or in the future.

The portrait was painted by Doug Rugh, a well-known artist of Falmouth, Massachusetts.

The Migrant Mother photo by Dorothea Lange is so well known! Still, it is good to see it again and again as a reminder that bad times have been the reality for many among us, then and now.

Lange took this photo of Florence Owens and her children in 1938 in Nipomo, California. You can see more photos of Florence with her children and learn about the photographer’s encounter with them by clicking on the photo or this link.

Madonna and child

This is a piece of art I bought some time ago in one of the “antique” shops of Tucson. You know, one of those places where you can spend a lot of time looking at things, touching them, having a hard time deciding which ones to buy, because in reality you don’t need them. That was not the case this time! I thought I was buying this Madonna for a friend in Poland, but after bringing her home I could not part with her. For me, she is the best Madonna I have ever seen! I understand her worries and concerns, and I respect her strength and pride.

So this reproduction of someone’s art (the piece is not signed), mounted on a very sturdy piece of wood, is hanging in our bedroom. I never feel tired of it.

Marie Curie with her daughters

Marie (Sklodowska) Curie sitting on a garden bench with her two daughters does not look all that joyful in this 1905 photo. It is a very rare image of this extraordinary and hard working scientist (native of Poland, citizen of France), a recipient of two Nobel prices (1903 and 1911) for her work. She must have had plenty of concerns about how to combine the demands of her science with her motherhood!

Child being held by his cousin in Peru

When I saw this painting by Christine Lytwynczuk in one of the Tucson galleries, I jumped with excitement. “Here it is,” I thought, “a painting that represents the joy of motherhood!” The large size of the art with its vivid colors of Peruvian clothing, happy face of a mother…a perfect addition to our Tucson home. And so it is prominently displayed in our dining area.

However, there is one thing I have to add — while purchasing this piece I learned that there is no mother in it at all! How come? Well, the happy person holding the baby is a young Peruvian boy, a cousin of that baby. Wow, I was blown away for a while by that discovery.

After a while I settled with my feelings. Who cares if it is not a mother or not even a woman? Joy is joy! So I call this piece JOY. Once in a while I even see in it a young, happy Peruvian mother and say to her, “Hello!”.

Larger agave with smaller agave underneath

We are so accustomed to see cute photos of women with kids, or animals with their offspring, that plants are not considered as major players in motherhood images. For me, however, Agave plants are very motherly! Just look at this baby plant snuggled under its mother protective and feisty leaves. Don’t you agree?

Alicja with her baby Leo

Baby Alicja and her mother Krystyna

Baby Alicja and her mother Krystyna

Alicja with her toddler Taurus

Alicja with her toddler Taurus

Toddler Alicja with her mother Krystyna

Toddler Alicja with her mother Krystyna

These photos are of my mother and me when we became mothers. (I have placed captions for clarity.) These images are strikingly similar in their composition even though there is over thirty years difference in time, thousands of miles of space, and a huge color spectrum in photo technology between them.

Alicja and her mother

This is photo of my mom and me was taken in 2005 during one of my visits to Warsaw. Each visit was a happy time for us and always too short, of course. Two years later was my last time to be with her and celebrate her Mother’s Day — Mother’s Day in Poland is on May 26th. She died in July 2007 and I still have a hard time to accept it. The hardest thing is that I have no one to call and say, “Czesc Mamo!” — “Hi Mom!”

I will end these reflections with a quote from the Introduction to the book Letters to Mother, a hefty collection of letters from many famous artists, politicians, historians, philosophers and writers to their mothers — edited by Charles Van Doren.

“If there is anyone in the world whom we should not have to deceive, who is most likely to know us for what we are and love us anyway, who will never prefer complexity of thought and expression to simplicity and directness of feeling…that person is our mother.”

* * *

Photo of migrant mother by Dorothea Lange in the public domain. Joy – copyright by Christina Lytwynczuk. Marie Curie with her daughters copyright by Association Curie Joliot-Curie; photographer unknown. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Explore posts in the same categories: Celebrations, Feelings, Memories, Photo essays, Thoughts

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13 Comments on “Mother’s Day Reflections”

  1. Vince Radzik Says:

    Touching thoughts and images about motherhood…Bravo!

  2. Pam Says:

    Thank you Alicja, for your words and the photos. We have a new grand-niece, daughter of Rachel and Will, born today! .

  3. Richardson Don Says:

    Alicja: I had always thought the Immigrant Woman’s photo was taken by Walker Evans, who worked with James Agee on his book LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. I seem to remember the picture from that book. But you are telling me it was Dorothea Lange. No doubt you are right, a meticulous researcher. Time now to return to blue waters.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      So good to hear from you Don!

      Please click on the “Migrant Mother“photo in my blog and check the references. Sorry to say, but I am not familiar with Walker Evans’ photography or the book by James Agee and Walker Evans. Perhaps they included the photo by Dorothea Lange in their book?!

      Keep in touch as you do – I enjoy reading your info-emails!

  4. Lesley Says:

    This is a lovely piece about motherhood, an experience I have never had but that I know is conducive to the strongest feelings possible for a human being. Thank you, Alicja, and see you soon before you leave the beige for the blue.


  5. Priscilla Petersen Says:

    I have a picture of 4 generations taken at the Colorado Springs airport where I was preparing to fly back to Tucson two years ago…Myself, my elder daughter Juli-Ingrid, her younger daughter (my grand-daughter) Elizabeth, and E’s daughter (my great grand)Arianna. Altho I have always been involved in creative projects, I consider my four kids to be my greatest.
    Thanks for the blog, Alicja. I love reading them all.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Dear Priscilla,

      What a happy mother you are, and what a nice comment you

      Thank you for being so supportive of my blog – you made my day!


      P.S. I would love to see your “4 generations picture” – please bring it to my Open Studio event in the fall.

  6. Marina G. Says:

    What Lesley said! 🙂

    Neither have I been a mom, but I do believe, in moments, I can draw from my other life experiences, to conjure the depth of love and bond that a mother feels. So compelling.

    The coincidences of the pictures are intriguing and poetic, the ending quote rings so true, and the mother and baby Agave picture is adorable!

    By the way, I have an old copy of LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. Don’s comment prompted me to grab it and flip through it. There are a couple of photographs in the book that are highly reminiscent of the Lange photograph and it’s easy to understand associating the photo with Walker Evans, given the subject matter.

  7. […] Last year at this time, I wrote a post titled Mother’s Day Reflections: […]

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