Memories and Musings – On Past Lives

Nina Tisara muses about earlier incarnations of herself, of the past lives she has lived as a stay at home mother, photographer and more.

Nina’s Christmas cookie cutters were recently given to a neighbor with young children. (Photo: Nina Tisara)

Alexandria, VA – I’ve had several past lives. I’m not speaking here of lives I’ve remembered through past-life regression hypnosis. (I attended a seminar for that once.) I’m talking about earlier incarnations of myself.

In my most recent past life, I was a photographer. For some 30 years, along with two of my children, Steven and Lynn, I ran Tisara Photography. For some 11 years before that I was executive assistant to the director of a Capitol Hill association of state agencies. In the life before that, I worked for the official Air Force photo lab, where I learned about photography.

But before that, I was a stay-at-home mom who baked cookies and cakes. A leather-bound cookbook imprinted with gold lettering still sits on a shelf in my kitchen. It reads “presented to Mrs. Mark Halperson (my first married name was Halperson) who has been selected one of the 10 best bakers from the state of WASHINGTON, D.C. in Pillsbury’s 15th Grand National Bake-Off, 1963.” I haven’t baked, not even using a mix, for years and recently gave my Christmas cookie cutters to a neighbor with young children.

I used to sew. My daughter Lynn recently remembered that when she was growing up, the sewing machine stayed set up against a wall at the bottom of the basement stairs. Her reminder brought up memories of McCall’s, Simplicity, and Butterick patterns, and how I would place things ever so carefully on fabric so as to get the most pieces from the least fabric. I still use the analogy of fitting tasks into small blocks of time as being akin to laying pattern pieces on cloth.

I wrote a letter in response to a column in the January 1980 Washington Post by Ellen Goodman, “Superwoman, Super-Tired.” I wrote, “When I was Supermom, I arose before the family to have breakfast ready for them. I created meals, all under 24 cents and 259 calories per serving. My zig-zag sewing machine fashioned matching Easter outfits in sizes 3, 4, 6 and 8. When I passed out from fatigue at 11 p.m., I was vaguely frustrated for want of floor-to-ceiling shelves to organize the baking pans that carried love, warm from the oven, to my family.

“After I went ‘outside’ to work, (I was a single mom of four then), I got up at 5 a.m. to fix breakfast, pack lunches, and start dinner. I was already tired when the nursery school bus came at 7 a.m. I worked from 8 a.m. to whenever, 5-1/2 days a week, and was determined to be a Super Secretary. When I fell exhausted into sleep, I was frustrated because I couldn’t also be an Olivia Walton Supermom.

“Now, I begin to see that the question is not how tired I get. One gets as tired building bridges as pushing paper as folding diapers. The question is how much choice we have in how we tire ourselves….I am beginning to see that the question is how to keep myself on the list of those I am responsible for and to…It is a question of choosing how to use the energy that is me. And that is worth struggling for.”

In this current life, I’m creating mosaic art, but remnants of those earlier incarnations remain, especially trying to keep myself on the list of those I am responsible for and to …and choosing how to use the energy that is me.

Mosaic artist/photographer Nina Tisara is the founder of Living Legends of Alexandria.

ICYMI: Carol and Ryan Bailey, 2020 Living Legends