Elaine B.

"'You WILL learn how to play the PIANO,' her mother screamed.
'Yeah, but I will only remember "Mary Had a Little Lamb."'
My mother and I had a love-hate relationship with our piano. She loved it, I hated it, unless it was being used as the player piano. If I was taking lessons, or practicing, I was miserable. However, this photo looks so endearing, I could cry looking at it. My mother is now 67 and lives 3000 miles away. My husband and I have an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. As of 7 months ago we lived just a few miles from them and saw them often. When I look at this picture it reminds me of all the things I am so naive of and what I took for granted."

Elaine B.
San Diego, CA
Angela P.

"This photo was taken at Disney World. At that time, we had been together for 5 years, and the trip to Disney was a gift from me to him for our anniversary. The entire trip was planned so I could surprise him by finally setting a wedding date. I had created a handmade save-the-date card, and I planned to give it to him as the fireworks went off on our first night at the magical theme park.

We had an amazing day together, and as the big moment arrived, I slipped the piece of paper (which I had been carefully protecting in my pocket all day) into my hand. In front of us stood a newlywed couple wearing the wedding mouse ears, the fireworks were lighting up the castle, people were kissing, the moment was exactly how I had envisioned it. I turned to my fiance, expecting to be swept into his arms, and instead....he was taking pictures.

I gently tried to pull his hand away from the camera and into mine, and I asked him to please put his arm around me. He turned to me, clearly annoyed, and said, "Why do you have to ruin this? I just want to take pictures!"

I was devastated. I slipped the little handmade save-the-date card back into my pocket, and I cried there in the dark as I watched the newlyweds kiss. Just then, my oblivious fiance turned to me as the finale began and yelled over the booms, 'Let's get our picture with the castle in the background!'

And so, a picture was taken, me in tears and wedding veiled Minnie Mouse in the background. Several months later, the engagement was called off. My own internal fireworks had gone off that night too - I needed a man that knew how to make real memories, not just create picture perfect moments."

Angela P.
Nashville, TN
Monica C.

"Pure acute pain while grasping a skeleton on a street corner in New Orleans."

Monica C.
Denver, CO
Ryan L.

"What looks like a young woman at an airport, ready to go on an exciting trip, is really a young woman whose whole life just got turned upside down. Boyfriend of 6 years...gone. House...gone. Best friend...gone. Solution? Traveling Asia for a year on a journey of self-discovery."

Ryan L.
Atlanta, GA
Elizabeth Marie M.

"A beautiful spring evening almost 1 year ago. I had just found out a couple of hours before this picture that I was pregnant with my first child. My boyfriend, who was shocked to say the least, kept touching my belly and my heart, and promised us both that everything was going to be ok, the reason for his promise is because I'm the sole caregiver to both my grandparents, both 84 years old, had no job and no home of our own to raise our child. I was almost entering my 2nd month, when one Saturday morning I felt really sick. I woke up that day with my first child inside of me, and went to bed without him. I had a miscarriage that day. So this picture, represents more than what meets the eye, it's my first picture taken with MY family, and as a mom."

Elizabeth-Marie M.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Elizabeth M.

"In the picture, I'm sitting in the lounge at a department store. I have just had my makeup done at the counter downstairs, and I'm smiling (in part) because I am recently engaged.

But see how there's a tear in the wallpaper behind me? And see how I'm clenching my teeth while I smile?

Fifteen minutes later, my mothers cell phone rang and we heard that my grandmother needed to go back to the hospital. Forty-five minutes later and we were there ourselves and I was standing outside with my cell phone, telling my dad he needed to come down and be with us. Fifty minutes later I was smearing makeup all over my fiancés favorite shirt while I cried into his collarbone. Two weeks later, my grandmother died.

In the picture, you can't see what's happening beyond the frame. You can't see the tension of living life while others are winding theirs down. But you can feel it in everything: the wallpaper won't last forever, and neither will the cushions or the ring. Neither will we.

When I wash off the makeup, though, and look in the mirror, I can still trace my grandmother's legacy. I see her smile on not just my face, but also on my mother's and my cousin's, and my brother's. I see my ancestry reflected in my son, born of the marriage I hadn't started yet here, and in the world and the life around me. I see how the wallpaper is torn down behind me, but I know that if I showed this to my grandmother in her prime she would have turned me around and showed me how to fix it.

Seconds after my mother took the picture, we both got up and walked fearlessly into the rest of our lives because that's how we all do it: step-by-step and buoyed by shifting air. We change, but we hold each other up."

Elizabeth M.
Merced, CA
Jody S.

"Years ago, the younger version of me dreamed of a white picket fence kind of life for my children; the kind I never had. Back then, I was in denial about problems in my marriage and couldnt fathom I could ever live without one of my children. But in the years that followed, my husband would leave me for another woman and my oldest, Kate, would die in a car accident. How could I have imagined I would learn to survive and how hard I would fight not grow into a bitter old woman? I would return to my job teaching children with special needs. Helping them would strengthen me. I would learn to cherish the precious memories of my daughter. The younger woman that was me in the photo was unaware that precious memories are really white picket fences; the patterns of love and dreams etched in my heart."

Jody S.
Scottsdale, AZ
Maureen M.

"'Not So Happy Birthday:' The picture is of my dearest friend Alison singing me 'Happy Birthday.' We had been neighbors, writing partners, creative support for each other and best friends for many years. She gave me this surprise birthday party before I moved to Chicago. We both look so happy and brave... but the truth is I think we were pretty nervous about the future and just giving good face."

Maureen M.
Chicago IL
Robin K.

"I was getting ready to celebrate my 30th birthday. On a Friday night, I along with some girlfriends went out to our favorite restaurant/bar, one of the hottest spots in Hollywood, where we were friends with the owner and staff. This particular night the owner had a friend in town visiting from New York. A high-profile hairstylist. It wasn't uncommon for the owner to invite a few people to stay after closing. It was a relaxed time, where he would whip us up a little nosh and we would just hang out and talk a bit. The stylist decided he wanted to do some hair, right there, by candlelight. And we let him. Well he was very excited to get his hands on my head, praising the work that he'd done on Grace Jones. So the buzzers and clippers began. I didn't really 'see' the final result till the next morning, where I'm sure my scream could be heard all the way to the east coast. My scream was so deafening because this next morning was Saturday, the Saturday that I had my photo shoot for my 30th birthday invitations! The photographer was booked solid and in order to get the invites out on time, I had to do the shoot. Shot after shot seemed to take forever and nothing was working for me. All I kept thinking about was my hair. He had shaved my temples so far back, it wasn't the beautiful Grace Jones I identified with, it was more like an alien character on Star Trek. I had to snap out of it and tap into my creative imaging, so finally I covered my temples and suggested to the photographer that we do a portrait shot. And low and behold out of the hundreds of proofs this was THE one. It ended up being the best invite cover. I have a blow up of it framed in my living room and receive tons of compliments, even twenty years later. So to look at the picture, most people think it was an intentional pose. But it wasn't, I was trying to hide an ugly hair cut by covering up my badly shaved off temples. Thank you, Robin."

Robin K.
Los Angeles, CA
Shannah S.

"I was just leaving my art gallery when I could sense the discomfort of a lens shining on me.

'SHANNAH!' Manty called out my name to grab my attention and steal a surprise snapshot.

As much as I love the camera (when I am posing of my own free will), unplanned photographs leave me feeling invaded and violated.

My instinctive, self-protective reaction was to lift my hand up to shield my face.

But Manty didn't perceive me discomfort, and when he showed me his photo of me, he shared his interpretation of the pose:

'It looks like you're waving goodbye' he said.

Yes! Indeed that may be the illusion of the image, but behind the image was a scared woman, wrapped up in her anxiety."

Shannah S.
Smithtown, NY
Liz B.

"I was taken away from my drug-addicted mother at the age of 6. I often tried to be still, and 'hide' myself from my mother mentally and physically to avoid her hitting me. This photo was taken of me at the county fair a year of so after I was taken away from her and sent to Ohio to live with my father's sister. I look at my face and see a child who appears to be filled with apprehension. That was not true. Inside I was so excited. I wanted to charge in there in and win. You know, show my stuff. But I wore a different mask for the world. Inside I was still that child who 'hid' herself to avoid being noticed for fear of punishment. I still fight the urge to myself everyday."

Liz B.
Columbus, OH


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