My Mother’s Dolls
My mother’s birthday is around the corner, and I am ironing nametags onto the various stuffed animals I have chosen for her. I run the hot silver plate over the back of a stuffed grey and black kitty, sealing my mother’s name onto his back, making it hers. My mother loves her stuffed animals. They are her companions, keeping her company and bringing her comfort during the day and late at night.
My mother is in a wheelchair, brain damaged from her second husband’s abuse. She cannot pick up the phone when she is feeling lonely to hear a familiar voice. Or take a walk in the neighborhood, listening to birds singing. Reading a book isn’t an option. She can’t reach out for a dog or cat to pet. Yet she manages to smile at the littlest things, like her dolls. Small reassuring beings, friends in quiet moments.
I have been a participant observer, documenting my mother’s nearly adult lifetime confinement to a nursing home after a brutal beating by her second husband.
My mother is the longest living resident in her home for the aged. When she entered the home, we had run out of options. I understood her anger. I’d be pissed, too, if I ended up crippled, but the women taking care of her couldn’t handle her explosions from frustration. My mother was a passionate brunette from Guatemala who used to dance the Flamenco. My uncle told me men would throw their wallets at her. Today she is incapacitated to the point where she cannot walk, feed or clothe herself.
This is Part One of the series, My Mother’s Dolls.
These photos are a continuation of that series; He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard, which began in December 2009. I am focusing here on the comfort objects that allow my mother to get through the day, nurturing and loving dolls that stand in for the life she lost.
As a bittersweet sidenote, I was awarded the Julia Margaret Cameron Award, 6th Edition, 1st Prize – single Documentary photo from my series on my mother, He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard.
That project also made it to the finalists for the CDS/Honickman, Duke University 1st Book Prize in Photography 2014.