Memories of My Mom




We’ll get to how this shot came about and why I chose this one for Mother’s Day in a minute. First, if you don’t mind, I’d like to give you some background.


My Family


I grew up in Southern California in a city named Santa Ana. It’s not on the beach, but the drive from my parent’s house to Newport Beach is only about 15-20 minutes, if you’re lucky enough to not catch any traffic. I have two brothers, one older and one younger. Danny, my big brother, was already gone away to college in my earliest memories. Marcus, my little brother, and I are only 15 months apart, so we grew up together.


When my little brother and I were growing up, our dad worked two jobs to support us so that our mom could stay home with us. That may sound like an outdated idea these days, but it’s what both my parents wanted, and I think my brother and I are better for it. Now, that’s certainly not to criticize single parents in any way, but I consider myself fortunate to have been raised that way.


Neither of my parents went to college. My dad enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school and, after twenty years of service, retired as a Master Sergeant in 1980. After he retired, he started working in the aerospace industry. Our entire childhood, my dad worked during the day, came home and ate dinner, and then left to work a second job at night, six nights a week. As I said earlier, my mom stayed home with us. So, naturally, and luckily, we grew very close.


Growing Up


My little brother and I had a great childhood. Although they didn’t spoil us, my parents made sure we had enough. We played one sport or another almost year-round. My mom drove us to school, picked us up, made dinner, took us to one practice or another, and then picked us up again. Mom did this day after day, year after year, until I was old enough to drive. She never once complained.


We both went to college locally and, finally with my own car, my mom was able to retire from the taxi business. My little brother and I both attended the University of California at Irvine. On days that I didn’t have an early class, I’d drive home after working out. I’d pick up my mom and we would go out to breakfast.


Full disclosure, I am very biased towards Southern California. With the possible exception of Hawai’i, there’s no place that I’ve lived that I’ve liked even remotely as much. However, neither of my parents really seemed to care for the beach when I was growing up.


Nevertheless, eventually, I was able to get my mom to come with me over to Newport or down to Laguna Beach. There’s a lot of restaurants that serve breakfast along the beach. Taking my mom to breakfast down by the beach, with the breeze coming off the ocean and the salt in the air is one of my favorite memories.


All good things come to an end, though, and I eventually left California after college. When I would come home, my mom and I would again go out to breakfast in the mornings. It was one of the things that I looked forward to most when I would come home.

Coming Home


So, now to this shot.


I take my camera gear with me every time I go home. As I’ve said before, I love shooting on the beach in California. I love the wave action. The sound of the ocean crashing on the shore is something I could listen to for hours. I love the cool mornings, the fog, the marine layer, all of it.


On this particular trip, I didn’t stay at my parent’s house. Since I was planning on getting up before sunrise every morning to go shoot, I didn’t want to disturb anyone. I was going to be home for only five days on this trip. So, I decided to drive down to Laguna Beach to shoot the same location every morning. I figured this might increase my chances of (hopefully) getting a good shot. Four mornings in a row, I was up at 4:30am and, after some hotel room coffee, headed down to Laguna.


The Pirate Tower


This is a shot of “The Pirate Tower.” It’s a 60-foot tower built into the cliff face and belongs to the estate that sits above it on the cliff. Built in 1926, it and reaches from the edge of the water to the top of the cliff where the house sits. It was intended as beach access for the owners and contains a private staircase. Unfortunately, a design flaw leaves it useless at high tide, when the exit door and a portion of the base of the tower end up submerged.

As cool as it would be for there to have been pirates in Southern California, there wasn’t. It seems the second owner of the estate earned the tower it’s nickname. No, he didn’t pillage his neighbors or capture ships that sailed past. As the story goes, he would dress up as a pirate and hide coins and candy in the crevices of the rocks on and around the tower. The local kids could then hunt for the hidden “treasure.”


Now back to the present. I shot every morning until after sunrise when the light started getting too harsh. Then I would stop in Laguna and sit, overlooking the ocean, warming up with a cup of coffee. As the sun rose higher, the surface of the ocean would explode with reflected light, looking like millions and millions of floating diamonds, one of my all-time favorite sights.


One More Time


My whole childhood, my mom was an early riser. On the other hand, my dad, if he didn’t have to be up for work, slept later. I would have loved to have driven over to my parent’s house (only about 30 minutes from Laguna) and picked up my mom to go get coffee and some breakfast. My dad, too, if he was up. I would have been more than happy to go get her and drive right back to the beach.


Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. A few weeks before I took this shot, my mom passed away. My trip home this time was for her memorial service. So, I sat looking at the sparkling ocean wishing I could have just one more cup of coffee with her. Today is the first Mother’s Day since she’s been gone.


I miss her.


I’m not sad, though. I remember all the breakfasts. Memories of telling stories, laughter, and hugs chase the sadness away before it can take hold.


So, there’s no tears, only smiles. She’d want it that way. That’s why there’s still a little color in the water in this photo. Mom would want us to remember that, even in our saddest moments, there’s always color in the world.


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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