“I know now that to be loved as a child means to be watched.” Victoria Chang
I think about the photographs of me / in floral dresses / my grandmother’s heels / as if in my Sunday Best but I’m watching Lord of the Dance / I ache to know who was behind the camera / hope it was my father / that he took a moment to acknowledge my existence / keep it forever / his little lady / bobbed hair / frightened eyes / a rare smile.
I think about the photographs of my parents’ wedding / a stack of memories left / to collect dust in a cupboard / the duty of another grandmother to keep / to pass on to the only daughter of their marriage / the only child who must bear their love as a burden / the reason for breath yet the reason for all this distance / piggy in the middle at school / late nineties / everybody’s parents shared the same bed / I appear in some of the photographs / tousled / months old / a baby-grow with a bowtie / I am passed from one grandmother to another.
In the final photograph / a toddler with pink dress shoes / a floppy hat / shy / knowing smile / my father is there but I am attached to my grandmother at the hip / I say watch me / I say look after me / please / I admit I do not trust the man in the wedding photographs / now in a kilt / now on a giant bridge leading to the giant’s causeway / but I hope / still hope / he was the one who caught me in heels / my attempts to dance like Jean Butler / the vain wish my red hair would corkscrew curl like hers.
I hope he sees me for the woman I became / who cannot dance / who is learning to trust the man in the wedding photographs / the one on the bridge / while desperately trying not to forget / the mothers who were there / always there / in more than photographs.
Kristiana Reed (she/her) is a bisexual writer and the Editor in Chief for Free Verse Revolution, a literary & arts magazine. Reed often explores the body, chronic illness, addiction recovery and womanhood through the natural world and written portraiture.
Editorial Art by Dilara Sümbül