Photo Album | Teen Ink

Photo Album

September 20, 2018
By colleendurniak BRONZE, Auburn, New York
colleendurniak BRONZE, Auburn, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

It’s always weird to look at old family pictures and know, somehow, that’s you. Sometimes you see your hair, or your nose, or even something you can’t quite place. Other times it’s not even in looks but in action; a smile, a certain pose. Each time you look in a photo album you’re looking at the people who shaped you and who made you who you are.

I’m lucky that my family has had the impact they had, my mother an obvious example; she raised me and imparted the values that she felt were important. Kindness, compassion, and staying humble were at the forefront, and I can see it no clearer than in the picture where she holds me - dressed as a pumpkin - up to the camera. She’s smiling, but she’s not cheesing for the sake of a photo. Instead, her gaze is turned down and away from the lens. Held close to her chest, I gaze up at her in the only way babies can to their mothers. Her eyes are filled with love as they look at me, soft smile visible even in the photograph. It’s a small snapshot that reminds me of my childhood with clarity, my mother always in the periphery and always with a lesson. She was the first one who taught me how to share, how to make friends, and how to treat others with respect. Though it’s a moment I don’t even remember, looking at it reminds me of all the ways my mother helped me through life.

But, of course, life does not exist in a vacuum. My mother couldn’t have become who she is without her own mother. While she taught me the importance of being kind and gracious, my grandmother went a different route. Even now, I can clearly picture her reminding me how crucial it is to get an education. Her lessons are reflected no clearer than in a photo from her own youth; the picture black and white and crinkled with time. She’s standing against a wall with a few heavy books held to her chest and, even now, I can feel the self-confidence she exudes. Our features look nothing alike - short, inky black haircut in a bob, a broad nose, dark, almond shaped eyes - but if I stare I can pick out the similarities. We both stand with our shoulders up and our back straight, we both smile the same way at a camera, and we both place the same importance in education. I didn’t realize it at the time, not when I was just a little kid, but my grandmother is the reason I strive to do as well as I do in school. She was the push I needed to take college level classes as a highschooler. Even if I didn’t appreciate it then, I know her lessons will only help in the future.

My aunt is last, but only because I remembered I needed three photos - not two - and I somehow unearthed hers in the scramble. In any case, I’m glad I did. She is no doubt the wild card in this assortment, the one I never would have expected to impart any substantial life lessons. In the photo, she poses in front of the Rocky Mountains. Arms splayed wide, her face tilts up to the sun as she laughs. Long, curly hair forms a dark curtain against the milky white backdrop of snow and fog. I can think of no better photo to describe my aunt. Always a risk taker, she did a semester in Ireland at only fifteen and moved to Colorado just a few years later. Instead of pious deeds, or  essential truths, she taught me how to have fun. I’d only ever see her around the holidays, but that was all I needed. She taught me how to not take myself so seriously and, most importantly, how to laugh at my mistakes. Though her teaching might not have been the most crucial, I still believe that I would have grown up to be a very different person without her.

As different all the women in my family are, and as varied their impact has been, one thing remains the same; no matter what, I’ve always known I can go to them if I ever need help. Throughout the years and as I’ve faced different challenges in my life, I’m more grateful now than ever that I’ve had such wonderful women raise me.

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