The importance of family portraits

Monday, May 11, 2020

The importance of family portraits

By Susan Edni

WHY NOW?

This story is for you mum and I called it “Why Now?”

“Ugh - really - we have to go to the studio for a portrait? But why?”

My mum was visiting us from London as she did every year and Udi decided he wanted to create a portrait of my mum and me and the children. It wasn’t that we were against the idea but as always, we had other ‘stuff’ we wanted to do. The kids wanted to go out with friends and my mum and I didn’t feel like going out. Nobody wanted to get nicely dressed. None of us understood why we had to do this now.

However Udi, being Udi, insisted and so we went and I remember saying to Udi that he owed us ‘big time’.

That’s how it started in February of 2016. We got dressed and did our hair and I remember that my mum wore one of my necklaces. I always laugh when I think of us having broken our studio golden rule - don’t come hungry to your portrait session! Well we did, so after an hour or so at the studio, we all got hungry and we left poor Udi to finish up and we walked to find the nearest place to eat.  

A few weeks later, mum was now back in London, and Udi showed me the images he had worked on to create our portrait. Well, like any woman, I immediately focused in just on me and picked on everything….my hair, my wrinkles and just generally what I looked like.

Here’s what I didn’t know. At the time of creating this portrait, my mum was not well. Six months later she had died from Leukemia. My mum never got to see our finished portrait.  

I have to admit that it took me a quite a while to be able to look at that portrait without being overcome with tears….but when I did, I looked at it with very different eyes. I saw the most beautiful and precious portrait of me and my mum and my two children. The touch of our hands linking us together (my mum really did have the most beautiful hands), my necklace mum borrowed, the cheeky grin of Ollie who made us laugh that day and Roni who was growing up so fast and how both children truly loved to spend time with mum and how close they were with her.

I didn’t focus on me or how I looked, that didn’t matter. I saw three generations of my family together. I felt such emotion, I could ‘hear’ the laughter between us all and ‘feel’ how every room lit up with my mum’s smile. This is exactly how mum would want to be remembered, how she would want us to think of her. She no doubt would laugh with us today of that whole experience but she too would be so grateful that we have this, and that my children will have this one day to share with their children.

I know my mum did not like to have her photo taken and if I’m honest, I am the same way. If it was up to me and my mum, we would never have gone to the studio that day or any day.

I have photos on my phone of course, we all do, and in boxes and in albums. I look at them on occasion as do my children. It’s a comfort to know that I have them.

But, this portrait on my wall that I see every day is different. It allows me to ‘touch’ my mum’s face as if she is in the room and to feel instantly connected to her. I see my mum’s smile every day, and I see how much the children have grown up but yet are still the same. For me, this portrait takes on a lifelike quality that no photograph can ever do.

My mum was truly my best friend. She was kind, generous, smart and a brilliant sense of humor! My mum and I would email at least ten times a day, we both kept such a strong presence in each other’s lives. Mum made sure that my children really knew her, despite being an ocean apart. In some ways for me, the pain is even stronger the more time goes on.

So, now it is me who owes Udi ‘big time’. If we had waited, we would never have been able to do this. We all have other things we have to do and I get that having your portrait is not top of everyone’s to do list. I often think what if we had not gone to the studio that day? If we had waited for the next time mum visited?

My mum didn’t come to the studio to create this portrait for herself….she did it for me, for my children and I even though I can’t tell her thank you, I thank her every day when I see her portrait.

I finally understand the ‘why now’ better than anyone. Without a doubt, this is the best gift I have ever received and one I will most definitely will be giving to my children.

 

"Story by Susan Edni"
Submitted by Udi Edni

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