by Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández
The child reaches forward with his toes, extending to touch the world from the comfort of his mother’s lap. She smiles, wide brown eyes into the camera, left hand resting on her left knee while the index finger of her right hand clinches the child’s overalls near his belly, holding him in place. He smiles, wide eyes into the camera, right hand resting on her right wrist while the index finger of his left hand points forward. He feels the warmth of his mother’s chin resting on his nearly bald head, nested in the safety of her crossed legs. The blades of grass reach up like threads bracing them both to the land. A scribble behind the photo, likely in my abuela’s handwriting, marks the date, 8 noviembre 1972, 48 years ago today.
This picture of my mother and me has been sitting on my dresser since 1989, the year I packed my trunk and moved away from home—and away from my mother, my family, and my country of birth, Puerto Rico—at the age of 17. It has been a source of comfort and grounding for 31 years. I have never written about this photo, but from the moment I started to read Esther Ohito’s moving essay in this issue, I knew that my response would involve this picture. It is not a mirror of Esther’s image, but it points to a similar way of understanding what such images of ourselves as infants with our parents can reveal for and about us.