In the photography lab at Tompkins Cortland Community College, a student played back a video she’d taken.
“Look,’ she said, handing me the camera. I watched a silent scene of my instructor patiently speaking with some non-descript middle-aged woman. Wearing my favorite reddish-color, the woman pointed and pontificated.
“Oh my gosh. That’s me,” I said three minutes later as the segment ended and the screen turned black. Who would know me? I hadn’t even recognized myself.
Who am I now? I wondered the first day I came home after my daughter died. Am I still the mother of a daughter?
“What am I supposed to do with my life now?” I asked after traveling alone to Australia to scatter Marika’s ashes.
Who am I? I considered as I wrote the author bio for my book proposal. “Designer and dreamer in Ithaca, New York,” I used to say. For years I was, “art teacher, special education teacher.” Now I type, “writer, blogger,” and remember Marika wanted to be these things. “And Photo-shopper,” I add, feeling I’m getting closer.
On Sunday August 3rd, 1PM at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, I will read for 30 minutes from my book. If you come to my reading you will not see a bereft, shell-shocked mother with tissues lining her pockets. The depressed, directionless wimp who couldn’t consider tweeting or exposing her fears online will not be there.
You will see someone who still tries to duet with her dead daughter, who appreciates the ways her daughter’s dreams have affected her own. You will see me stretching into my new role, humbled but not devastated by what life has thrown at me. Somewhere in the process of learning to accept change and challenge, I’ve allowed myself to grow.
Some days I don’t recognize myself.