There is a particular photograph of my mother that has always been one of my favorites. Taken in 1987, the black and white photo shows my mother holding me snugly against her chest when I was just a little baby.
I love this photograph so much that framed copies of it can be found at my apartment and on my desk at work.
A few years back I gave a framed copy of the photo to my mother as a gift for Mother's Day. And while she loved my present, she was quick to point out the all the things she disliked about herself in the picture, like the clothes she was wearing and how her hair just wasn't quite right.
But when I look at the photo, I don't see the "flaws" that she does. I never notice that her 1980s hairstyle was a bit ridiculous by today's standards, or that the type of the shirt she was wearing wasn't too flattering.
What I do see is the very beginning of a bond more special than any other I've experienced. That bond was one I continually tested over the years but was never able to break. My mother is smiling brightly in the photo, but I've always wondered if she would have been smiling then if she had known what a roller coaster the next 23 years of raising me would be.
When faced with a difficult child, my mother consulted a pediatrician who simply said that I was precocious and that my mother should "pick her battles." What the doctor meant, but was too polite to say, is that I was a brat.
My mother loves to tell the story of how she could never take me shopping without first setting some ground rules. I wasn't a spoiled child, but I always seemed to want more. Mom would give me several tokens that could be redeemed for small toys or candy whenever we went to the store. Once the tokens were gone, so were my spending powers - and it seemed to work. I learned that if I wanted the animal crackers, I'd have to put that bouncy ball back.
While I credit my mother's education and experience as a teacher for the interesting methods she used to teach me life skills, I have to admit that story never ceases to embarrass me, because it illustrates just how much I challenged mom in ways my siblings didn't.
But it is because of those very difficulties my mother had with me (which only increased during the teen years) that I can say today she is my best and truest friend. She's seen it all - the good, the bad and the ugly - and by some miracle she has loved me through it all.
My mother loves to tell stories about my childhood years, just as I love the photograph of her holding me as a baby for the different story it tells of my childhood.
When I look at that picture, I see the beginning of a life filled with the blessings of knowing the unconditional love of a mother.
Staff reporter Megan Bollinger covers the police and municipal government beats for The Sentinel. Her e-mail address is mbollinger @lewistownsentinel.com.