My mother’s gift

Five years ago this week, my mother passed away.

We did not always have an easy time in our relationship.  But I’m not here today to talk about that.

Today, I’m taking the day off to work in the darkroom. I’ll cue up my darkroom playlist. Fill the trays with printing chemicals. Just turning on the safe light brings me a deep sense of well being.

And it struck me, that I might not have had this love of printing if it were not for my mother.

When I was 16 – give or take a year – she was in the associate of fine arts program at our local community college. And one of the required courses was an introduction to photography. At that time, there was no digital photography. The students learned to shoot manual film cameras, process their film, and print their images in the darkroom. They started off by building an oatmeal box pinhole camera. They had to complete a cohesive project by the end of the class.

Before this, I was only familiar with photography in the form of snapshots. And even though I was a teenager, with my own concerns, I paid attention. It was a time when we were close and I fell in love with everything that she did. I fell in love with homemade pinhole cameras, and black and white tonalities, and darkroom prints. And while photography and printing held little interest for her beyond that one class, it became my life blood.

I wonder if she ever realized what a gift that class was. I have a slight smile on my lips as I write this, thinking of all the intentional gifts that faded away over the years: the endless music lessons, lost on a girl who can’t carry a tune; the language classes that never led to fluency.

It was that unintentional gift that left the deepest mark.

Words and Images © Monika Danos

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