January 11, 2009

The Real Us in Photos

The piles and piles of snow we’ve had in Spokane since December 17 prevented us from celebrating Christmas with my 91 year old grandma on December 25. Not only was it very difficult to get to the home where she lives, but even if we had, there was no way she could have walked on the snowy, icy walkways. So we waited until this past Saturday and decided to have “Second Christmas.”

Her gifts were wrapped and waiting. Mine to her was a memory book I created online, filled with recently taken family photos. I was careful to put names beneath the pictures in large type I knew she could read; however, this didn’t stop her from getting some of the names of the people in the photos wrong.

Mom and I have noticed that even though she sees herself in mirrors, because of her dementia, she often forgets that she’s aged. So when she flipped through the photo book, she repeatedly thought pictures of my mom were her (even though my mom looks nothing like my grandma did when she was 62). In my grandma’s mind, she’s still a spry young thing. There have been many times she’s caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror and has been shocked she no longer has red hair (from what I understand, she hasn’t had red hair since she was a girl).

I think we all have a distorted view of ourselves in some way. I have a hard time seeing my true weight in the mirror and I’m often shocked when I see photos. A friend forgets she’s in her 50’s and is surprised to see subtle little wrinkles in photographs. Another always thinks she’s taller than photos reveal her to be. And a male friend is convinced something is wrong with all cameras in the world because he couldn’t possibly have the bald spot that shows up in his photos.

I often wonder what makes us have these distorted views of ourselves and why photographs seem to reveal the truth. We all look at ourselves in mirrors every day, yet many of us are shocked when we see photographs. How did we all get magical mirrors that conceal the flaws we fear the most? Why don’t we see who we really are, not who we would like to be?

Ultimately, my grandma is one of the happiest people I know. In her mind she’s still very youthful and still has that red hair. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.


  1. Maybe we don't see those flaws an our aging because we know who we are on the inside and feel as if little time has passed! Great post Christy!

  2. I agree with Jackie. I think it may be good that some of us see ourselves as we feel inside, not as we really are on the outside. I know I don't feel my age and rarely see myself as being 40 when I look in the mirror. And I think that's OK.