A few years ago, my daughter returned from Italy with a stack of what she called ‘Street Art” –pieces of art sold on the streets of Venice and Florence. She handed me a photo. It was a woman with an umbrella going downstairs. It touched me in a way that I had trouble expressing in words. We looked at the other pictures, and I picked up the image of the woman with the umbrella; Savannah leaned over the stack of artwork and said, “This picture reminded me of you.”

So many metaphors flooded my mind. I wanted to take the woman’s strength, the protection of the umbrella, the stairs, and her age and make them into a tribute. I wanted my daughter to see me as all the good things the picture offered.

I asked her, “What do you see here?” She said, “I see the whimsy and the brave.” I held the picture and contemplated her answer. I imagined the umbrella as a vibrant pink that matched her skirt and that she was walking to the plaza to feed the pigeons. I tried, as I often do, to see the positive and not to assume that my daughter in any way thinks of me as old and tired and lonely. I spent a few days with this picture on the top of the stack she had given me, every day imagining why this photo was a likeness of me.

And then that thing happened that sometimes occurs when you have not had enough sleep, or the person in line at the grocery store says something and you feel small and insignificant. I went home and knocked on my daughter’s door. “Why, why did you buy this picture? How does it remind you of me? Do you think I am old?”

Savannah looked at the picture in my hand.

“I thought she was determined and strong, but Mom, that isn’t the picture that reminded me of you.” She pulled the picture from the bottom of the stack and pointed to the whimsical and brave painting of a girl reaching for her dreams. “This is the picture that reminds me of you.”

I had secretly wanted this painting to be significant. I know that children don’t often see us at our brightest. They don’t always understand the secrets to our soul, or at least we don’t think they can. Then on a sunny early morning, my daughter took me to the small airport just outside town. Before work or school, we went on a bi-plane ride. A secret wish that I had felt was too frivolous, and she knew it was necessary in our small budget.

That is when I understood both pictures are me. It is not as straightforward as a photograph or a drawing, but at various times one of them is how I see myself, and the other is how I want to be seen.

10 Responses

  1. You are an amazing writer. That story is so true. Sometimes the way we are seen is so different then the way we are. Love you!

  2. A benefit of age is the perspective that time gives, especially knowing the simple secret that new beginnings and journeys are just a stroll away down a flight of stairs with umbrella in hand….beautiful piece of perspective and writing my friend, David

  3. Charlotte!!! I have tears in my eyes reading your beautiful words and am SOOOO PROUD OF YOU! You, my friend, are an inspiration! ♥️♥️♥️

  4. I love this. It made me a little teary eyed. Everything she said about you is true. Whimsical and brave is definitely how I’d describe you.

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