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Wet summer air sets over the town of Franklin Hills, Michigan like a hand-knit blanket from Grandma—uncomfortable, but welcomed in a traditional and loving sort of way. Mingling smells of hot dogs, funnel cake, and cotton candy struggle to move through the thick air, but add a richness of their own and make the world taste delicious. Sticky-fingered children, holding popsicles melting faster than they can lick them, run along the sidewalks and bordering fields while their folks talk, hands in pockets, about politics and the economy. Others watch as their neighbors ride down the main street in makeshift “floats,” most commonly pick-up trucks prettied up a bit with red, white, and blue streamers. Clusters of friends and siblings trail behind in bikes and scooters, straightening their spines with a sense of importance and pride, more for their role in the Fourth of July parade than for their country.

I watch it all with wide and observant blue eyes as I cling to the pocket stitching of my mother’s jeans. My mom wears a white shirt, a multicolored kerchief tied in her chic way around her neck, and crimson lipstick that I think of as the color of love. I myself am donning a sweater, white stars against navy blue with red-striped sleeves. Her crystal earrings twinkle in the sun behind her as she picks me up and holds me on the side of her hip. My mom whispers, “Smile,” in a voice like velvet, and someone holds a camera up in front of us and snaps a picture.

Eleven and a half years later, this picture sits on my bedside table. I only recently came across it when my father discovered it while sifting through thousands of old photographs for my younger sister’s bat mitzvah montage. Memories, sweet like the summer air had been, came rushing back and I was immediately sitting on my mother’s hip once again. The picture depicts a simple, centered headshot of my mother and me, and I cannot help but wonder why I was struck by an overwhelming beauty of it.

I am first drawn to the immaculate beauty of my mother. I have always thought of her as the most beautiful woman in the world, yet the camera managed to capture what normal photos cannot for many people—her iridescence, how she radiates glitter and light from her skin. Her light brown hair, even lighter under the reflection of the sun, forms a wave in the front, almost foreshadowing what my dark, curly hair in the picture will look like in a few years time. She is smiling a crimson smile, but her eyes are smiling too, with faint creases forming on the sides of her eyes. And then there is the way she leans into the little girl beside her, assuring that bigger girl now of her eternal love.

I also cherish this picture because the year was 1999, a year I claim I never frowned. I was five years old then, an age I took pride in. Five was the number of letters in my name, and five was the number on the bubblegum pink Monopoly dollars, which I would trade all my money in for when my family played our favorite game. Even without the slanted “1999” in black pen on the back of the picture, I can tell the year. My toothy grin, consisting mostly of two big teeth in the front, along with my squinty eyes show an innocent, untarnished happiness and enthusiasm for life that is renewed with every time I gaze at the picture now.

Yet, I believe that the greatest reason for the picture’s beauty is that, though it shares attached memories of the past with many photographs, it perfectly illustrates the present. My mom and my relationship can still be defined by characteristics such as leaning our heads in pictures and creases around our eyes from smiling. My mother taught me to approach days with enthusiasm and a toothy grin, and she instilled a passion for life in me. Every picture captures a snapshot, a moment, that together make up a motion picture we are living. While I treasure my photographs with my mother, I must learn to live in the moment of the present picture being taken with the confidence that our relationship will always remain the same. This picture, taken on an ordinary day, holds a profound beauty because of its true portrayal of my mother and I now, and how we will always be, through both the more trying times and Fourth of July parades.





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