A photographic memory, on Sally's birthday

Sally would have been 69 today – almost 70! It’s hard to believe.

Her birthday got me thinking about a mother’s best quality: she knows exactly who you are. Down to your core, every ounce of your being, she’s got you pegged. Whether you’re sensitive, stubborn, a do-gooder… even though she may encourage you to adjust your behavior (“Oh, Missy, you just need to have a thicker skin”), she knows it’s of no real use. You are who you are.

In ninth grade, my friend Heather took a photography class and asked me to be her model. I immediately said yes. (Having spent 90% of my teenage years practicing pouts and smiles for my imaginary Seventeen magazine cover shoot, I felt very prepared.) My favorite shots she took were of me with heavy eyeliner, wearing a vintage fur coat that had belonged to my Grandma Rose (my mom’s mom) and looking very serious. I felt so glamorous.

When I showed the shots to my mom, she flipped through and said, “This one’s my favorite.” I felt sure it was the same one I liked. Wrong. This one was of me wearing a plaid collared shirt and jean overalls, with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup, smiling and staring straight into the camera.

“Mom, that’s the one you like best?” I asked. “I look like a farmer!”

“No you don’t,” she said. “You look just like yourself.”

I remember that now, as I think about how I want to look on my wedding day. With options for hair extensions, airbrush makeup, and big poofy gowns – or even something as simple as a suggestion to dye the gray out of my hair – I try to explain to people: “No, I just want to look like me.”