House Guest: Miranda Gargasz – A Thousand Pictures’ Worth

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Each Monday I will introduce a new Mom Blogger to you, dear reader. When I was brand new at this parenting gig I often felt lonely and frustrated by the lack of my village. You know, that mythical community of folks to help pick up the slack when you feel about as strained as you ever thought possible. Not finding my niche, I turned to the Internet to help me answer questions about newborns. Or to vent about just how crazy all this Mom stuff turned out to be.

And that is where I found my village. I found my slack. I made loads of true-blue friends.

This week I’d like to kick start things by introducing you to my dear friend, Miranda Gargasz. She is a ridiculously talented writer and a hilarious and kind person.

A Thousand Pictures’ Worth

We’ve been suffering through flooding in our little corner of Ohio. For the second time in three years the rains of spring decided they were too grown up for just a silly, old thunderstorm. They took the giant leap to monsoon and our basement flooded. Luckily, this time we were far more prepared when the waters started to rise, and we got most of our belongings out in the nick of time.

Where I ran into trouble was with my priorities. My husband, Jim, ran for the Ziploc bags to put under the feet of all our wood furniture. I ran for the coffee table, threw up the lid and started unloading picture albums as visions of our last flood with our ruined wedding album floated through my mind.

“What the hell are you doing?” he yelled at me, nonplussed.

“I’ve got to save the pictures,” I say loading up my arms and every passing kid’s arms, too.

Jim just shook his head as he usually does when I’ve lost it and there is no hope of changing my mind.

A few hours later, sitting on my loveseat that now shares space with our dining room table, I looked through those saved albums, fighting back more than just tears from our ruined basement. There were photos of my husband holding our newborn sons, Jimmy sporting his trademark scowl, and Tony beaming his baby smile as he often did. There were photos of each child snuggled up to Grandma or Grandpa, wearing the same suit for their baptisms that their father wore for his.

Then came the Christmas photos, each of them wearing a little suit with a bowtie for their first Christmas pictures with the Santa at Pandy’s Florist. Jimmy smiled for his. Tony was nearly horizontal with rage, frightened of the jolliest dude in the world. Some of the pictures of Christmas morning brought a smile to my face. All of them from when Jimmy was pre-K have them both in their underwear. After that Jimmy decided it wasn’t that cool to be photographed sans jammies, but Tony still rocks the Hanes, an enforced-by-mom bare minimum requirement.

Then came the school programs with the boys each dressed up as Darth Vader or Clifford. I had forgotten about the trips to the pumpkin patch in Kindergarten and their Thanksgiving feast day dressed as pilgrims until I saw the pictures for them again. The school Christmas programs brought tears to my eyes, each of my little cherubs in their Sunday best with a sparkly red circlet on their heads as they belted out “Up on the House Top” complete with arm motions. There were pictures of them hauling home the stash they acquired at Valentine’s Day parties, and faces covered in green frosting from shamrock cookies they ingested before their teachers shoved them out the door.

Many of the pictures featured Grandma and Grandpa with my kids. Some of them had Jim in them. Some of them had their teachers and friends in them. I began to feel a little like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz when she pulled back the curtain to see that the great and powerful Oz was but a dumpy, little man working some odd gizmo.

I was both Dorothy and the dumpy, little man, except there was no curtain to pull back. Through all those costumes, Christmas mornings, and holiday programs there is no evidence of my presence. I’m the person behind the camera. I’m the one making sure the moment is documented. The only evidence of my presence is a misplaced finger in the form of a pink, blobby smudge in the corner of a few random shots.

“Jim,” I say through my tears.

“The basement will be fine. We’ve done this before,” he says, paying no attention to what I’m doing because he is sorting through his files, making sure they escaped water damage.

“If I die, how will the kids remember me?”

He stopped digging through his papers and looked at me, the familiar wrinkle between his eyebrows forming. “Miranda,” he said, putting his files down and coming over to me. “They will remember you. You are their mother. There’s no forgetting your mom.”

He wrapped his arms around me as I sniffled and choked back more tears. He kissed the top of my head and said, “You know, there’s something more important than those pictures to help the boys remember you.”

I looked up at him, having no clue what he was talking about. He went over to the pile of books on the floor and pulled out a small, pink and gold journal and placed it in my hands. In it were all the essays I had written about the kids and the wonderful things they’ve said and done. It was filled with my thoughts about them growing up, overflowing with my own words—evidence that I adore them.

“I know they say a picture is worth a thousand words,” Jim said, “but I think the words are more valuable than a thousand pictures when it comes to remembering their mom.”

Just this once, I didn’t hate it that he was right.

MirandaBIO: Miranda Gargasz is a writer from a small suburb outside Cleveland, Ohio.  She earned a degree in Elementary Education before becoming a writer. Her essays have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and on In February of 2014 she published her first collection of essays entitled Lemonade and Holy Stuff.  You can read more of what she writes at Miranda Gargasz.  She lives with her husband, two sons and a feisty mutt.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.