This photo shows my mother with her stepmother and an aunt celebrating her tenth birthday. I discovered it this past summer. While I had seen pictures of her as a child before, this one had a profound effect on me.
After my mother abandoned our family when I was four, pictures of her disappeared. By the time I found her again, sixteen years later, my obsession with collecting family photographs came to include pictures of her as a child.
What I had not realized before was that in each photo I was looking for the answer to the same question. I heard the answer this summer, fifty years after this picture was taken. This sweet, pudgy child didn’t blow out her birthday candles dreaming that one day she would abandon her children. She never wished for, nor planned, what would be the most painful event of our family history. This image is now the most important picture I own because it records a child’s vulnerable innocence, and because it has given me a profound sense of closure.
Liliana Leopardi, Art Historian