I am adopted. In this photograph, I am six months old. My adoptive mother, Elizabeth Smith-Hopton, has just only just brought me home. She still enjoys the sweetness and novelty of giving me a bath. I like the hues of yellow and red in this photo; they are warm, touchable, alive.
That year Jimmy Carter was President and 65,000 women marched on Washington for equal rights. The first “Test Tube” baby was born in London. “The Deer Hunter” swept the Academy Awards.
I chose this photograph because I am looking at the camera. I am keenly aware or at least interested in the camera, or who is behind the camera. My mother looks young and buoyant. But on closer inspection, she is holding onto me quite tightly, as though I might slip from her grasp and sail away down river, little Moses that I am.
This photograph is an original. There are no copies. It is on the first page of my photo album, which I keep on a high shelf in my closet and take down once a year, around the New Year, and thumb through while I drink a hot, strong toddy.
I usually cry during this ritual—not because of this photo, necessarily, for this photo represents all that is beginning, that has yet to be, pure potentiality, sunlight through a sheer curtain. But by the end of the album, when I get to the part that shows the pictures of my Dad’s funeral, the finale to his life, their marriage, to father—I am crying.
I close the album and the room chills.