I don’t have any photographs from my childhood.
I wish I would have stolen just a few before I left. I wouldn’t even have been able to, though, because whatever family photos my family had were in a lock-box. All I am left with now is memories.
There were not very many photographs of me aside from the yearly school pictures. In comparison, there were a lot of photographs of my brother. It makes sense; he was the first-born, and very much the more favored child of the two of us.
My baby pictures were hidden away in that box, with the exception of a few I managed to take and keep in a box in my room. I was a small baby, with very tan skin and a head full of pitch black hair. I looked nothing like either of my parents. I looked nothing like my blonde-haired, blue-eyed brother. Where did that baby come from? I remember, over the years, people responding in disbelief when they saw the picture; they insisted that baby was not me. Why would my mother have pictures of another person’s baby? Clearly it was me. An innocent baby, with no idea what she would have to endure in the years to come. I feel sorry for that baby. I wonder what she could have done differently to make her mother love her.
I remember a few pictures of me as a toddler, with out-of-control curly hair, an innocent smile, and bright eyes that were full of life. I was a beautiful child. There was no reason not to love me.
I saw a clear change in the photographs of me once I was past toddler-hood. There was one photograph I will never forget. I must have been around 5 years old. I was sitting on the floor in back of my closed bedroom door, with my head looking up from the fetal position I had taken. There was a look of fear and sadness in my face. My eyes were no longer bright. My smile was long gone. I wonder what happened to make me feel that way. I wonder why my mother felt compelled to take my picture. Other photographs depicted the same sadness, the same emptiness that I continued to have well into my adulthood. The light in my eyes ceased to exist. Smiles were few and far between. I was no longer that innocent child.
Then there were the photographs of me in the shower, very much past the age of being able to bathe myself. I can barely understand having naked pictures of an infant. I will never understand why a parent would take naked pictures of a child. I didn’t know such pictures existed until last year, when my mother flaunted them in my face. I was able to get hold of one and destroy it, though it took me months to gather the strength to see the photo again.
I feel sick not knowing if she has any other photos like that hidden somewhere. I wish I would have set fire to all of her photos before I left. She doesn’t deserve to remember me.
With the invention of the smartphone, I began taking pictures of myself. Even then, there was something missing. I rarely smiled, and when I did, it was forced. My sadness and emptiness were written all over my face. I never noticed it because to me, that was my normal. When people recently started pointing out how much better I looked since I had escaped, I looked at old pictures I had taken of myself and I realized they were right. My face has always explained my feelings better than I ever could verbalizing them. Just like those photographs of me as a child, clearly miserable and in fear, but never able to express it in any other way.
I wish I just had something tangible to hold onto other than my memories.