My mother turned 51 this year. As part of her birthday gift, I told her I wanted photograph her. The thought came to me on the bus from Vermont one random morning. I called her immediately with the idea, and I could tell she was just as excited as I was. I wanted to make her feel beautiful and special, and I figured this would be a great way to quality time.
We planned to meet one afternoon after I was done at the office. I grabbed my makeup "kit" from the bedroom, set it on the kitchen counter, and went to work. While doing her makeup, I felt this strong connection between us. Like my great grandmother was watching us, smiling.
We both loved my great grandmother, she was my favorite person when I was a child. As a child I felt like my mother didn't understand me much, but my great grandmother was always there to comfort me. And when she left us, we lived with this void for a long time. I didn't react to her passing much since I was very young and didn't understand the full meaning of death, but my mother was heartbroken. She cried for months on end. She cried at random situations. And that left a mark on me.
I could tell mommy was a bit nervous about the whole thing. I offered her some wine, and she agreed. After a few minutes, she was more relaxed. She wasn't used to all that makeup. And now looking at the photos, I should have eased up a bit. I've always admired my mother's beauty. When I was younger, I used to pretend I was her in the mirror. Because she had me at such a young age, I remember how she made people around her feel with just her presence. I used to play in jewelry and perfumes, pretending I was a sophisticated lady like her, which always got me into trouble.
Now decades later, the woman who was the life of the party is now this very timid one, as if she was unsure about so many things. I wanted to make her feel how she was in her late twenties. Confident. Full of life. Happy. I finished her makeup, wrapped her up, and told her to look at herself in the mirror. She stood facing her reflection with barely any reaction. Moments went by as she examined the person looking back at her. Then she said, "What did I get myself into? If papi saw me wearing all this makeup, he would just suck his teeth! 'Tchuuuuuup! You don't need all that makeup woman!' He would say." And I laughed because it was the most appropriate impression of my dad.
We went on my roof. I gave her a few directions. She was a bit tense at first, but after a while she eased up. I reminded her how beautiful she is, and all I needed was for her to relax a bit. I tried to say a few jokes to loosen her up. And after about an hour of my shenanigans, I was satisfied when some of the photos. She left extremely happy that day. Although she didn't say she was. I could tell she was, which in turn that brought me joy.
After the session, I've decided to take a portrait of my mother every month starting with my birthday month for as long as I can. I also thought it would be a great idea to photograph different women over the age of 50 wearing headwraps or different head dresses I come up with. My goal is to make them feel beautiful and glamorous for not just that moment, but to leave them with something that would forever be special to them.