I’m not the only creative writer in the family both OD and MD have talents in that direction too.
MD is finishing her degree in primary (elementary) school teaching and as part of that she has to take a general education paper, that is one not related to the other course papers. She decided to do an English paper and one of her assignments was to write a short narrative essay on an important experience. This is what she wrote – she got a great mark for it and I think it captures some of our family dynamics perfectly.
Standing in the gardens surrounded by flowers, trees and shrubs, I thought of the photo on the wall at my parent’s house. It was old, the frame was starting to fade and the gold detail flake away. The photo itself was still filled of colour and I could still remember that day. Eighteen years had passed since that photo was taken, my mother’s hair once long and curly is now replaced with a short wispy cut and there are scars on her chest and neck from her endless battle, my dad has aged with time, and the three girls are all grown up. In the photo I was six and wearing my favourite blue dress with little black bows printed all over, my older sister was wearing a colourful jumper and her long dark hair tied up in a bun. My little sister YD standing in the middle of us two, a big smile on her face as we held her hands tight to make sure she stayed in place. Mum and Dad were standing behind us, you can’t see it but they were holding YD in place as well. It takes quite an effort to get a good photo of YD.
“Smile”, eighteen years later and I was standing there, holding YD’s hand so she stayed in place once more. We moved around the Botanical gardens, having photos taken in various different areas. We stood by an old wooden gate with rusted bolts and nails, moss was starting to grow over the wood in patches and it sagged close to the soft dark soil on the ground. My black heels sunk slowly into the ground like an anchor lowering into place. Photo after photo was taken, and my smile started to fade and feel fake as we moved again to a new part of the gardens for a change in back drop. Then I heard it, the start of one of YD’s meltdowns. She grizzled and groaned, mumbling about how she doesn’t want any more photos, then it developed into a cry and scream. I could understand her frustration; we had been taking photos for over an hour. People started to stop and look; this is nothing new to my family. I walked up to my little sister as she was hunched over sitting on a seat by a big native tree, and gave her a long and tight hug.
She cried and told me how she had been trying hard but it was boring, she does not like waiting, its part of having autistic tendencies. I asked her why today was important. Why were we getting photos taken? She replied “because the other photo is old”. If only life was so simple, we were getting a family portrait taken as we do not know how much longer we have together, because my mum is sick. YD knows mum is sick but she doesn’t need to know the severity until she has too.
As we walk towards the cafe to have afternoon tea, I put my arm around YD’s shoulders and tell her she did well today. I feel an arm around my waist, its warm and pulling me tight. The hand is pale and thin. I feel an immense amount of happiness in that moment, its YD’s hand. She doesn’t physically show emotions like that very often. We share a special bond my little sister and I, it’s not a normal relationship but its only one that we understand and I am her best friend.
Our first family portrait on the wall at my parent’s house shows a young family with an unknown future ahead of them. Life has changed in many ways, we have all grown up and moved out of home, my big sister is getting married, YD has lived longer and overcome obstacles we didn’t know she would.
There have definitely been some hard times. But the new portrait, it shows a family of adults that can overcome anything, that are still standing all together and holding YD’s hands so she stays in place. Family portraits show more then who is in your family, they show who your family, as a whole, are together.