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Posts Tagged ‘family’

Over sixteen years ago, I made one of those haphazard, following one’s desires versus common sense, maneuvers. I walked away from the world of full-time employment, full-benefits, great office, etc and wandered with rose-colored glasses into a world of mostly self-employment, cobbling together different gigs, and sometimes having no benefits at all, done so that I could indulge in the world of creativity. I’d grown up in a family of storytellers and for a variety of reasons I reached a point in my life where I wanted to spend time writing. I thought I would write a great fantasy masterpiece but what flowed most naturally were stories of the people around me, and occasionally, stories about myself. This was long before I picked up a camera but I have always been visual and so I wielded the pen like a paintbrush, sketching the world around me. I had no idea what I was doing and so every little bit of encouragement was pivotal in keeping me from giving up. As I began to submit my work, one of the first magazines to accept a short piece was the New York-based magazine African Voices. The editors were so encouraging and so supportive, and as I watched videos on its current GoFundMe page, I hear writers and artists expressing that same sentiment today. As Giving Tuesday approaches, please consider giving to an organization like African Voices. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow morning. As you can see on the GoFundMe page, every little bit helps. And meanwhile … it’s dusty … could use some revision perhaps … but here is a variation of what I wrote so long ago …

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my parents in the 1950s

Wait Until Morning

She sits on the edge of the bed, gazing into a large bureau mirror.  She smokes a Pall Mall or perhaps a Winston Salem.  She’s not sure.  She can’t remember if she pulled the cigarette from her purse or his coat pocket.  She can usually taste the difference but not tonight. In her mind’s eye, she sees her youngest son frowning and wrinkling his nose at the smoke.  She shakes her head at his face, then sighs as the image fades to be replaced by the items on the bureau top.  Pictures mostly and pill bottles and knick knacks from her children.  Most of the pictures and their frames are fuzzy with dust.  She is too tired to clean proper.  Only one picture shines clear in the dim light of the lamp – her  mother.

The woman looks at the picture and then at herself in the mirror.  She glances quickly away – she never liked her face – but the image remains.  Hair gray like her mother’s now, wide-rimmed glasses, skin weathered and dry no matter how much lotion she rubs on.  The bed is also reflected.  She stares at the crisp clean covers.  For the first time in 40 years, only on one side are they folded back.  She squeezes her eyes shut and clutches her stomach.  He is gone.

He bought her the scanner that sits near the bed. Fifteen years ago?  Maybe more. She saw it on “Let’s Make a Deal.”  She wanted one and he bought it for her birthday.  He always did his best to get her what she wanted.  A female police dispatcher’s voice barks from the scanner.  Somewhere downtown a tall black male is being chased by the police.  Her stomach knots and the breath catches in her thin chest.  All her sons are tall black males.  She breaths again as she remembers that her sons are at work or with their girlfriends.

Wind blows and the old house creaks.  A draft kisses her bare ankles.  “A small wood frame house” was how the reporter from the local paper described the house in his article about her daughter, on her way to college, the first one.  Her stomach clenches again at the thought of her daughter so many miles away, unreachable if she gets into trouble.

She sighs and puffs more deeply on the cigarette.  The house creaks again, and she smiles.  A junk heap, yes it was.  Their junk heap for 45 years.  Raised four children in it.  Would’ve been five if times had been better.  Two girls instead of the one.

More creaking.  She thinks of grabbing the iron poker by her chair in the living room.  The poker went with the coal stove they had in the 1950’s.  Back then, it was only used to nudge glowing coals.  Now … the neighborhood’s getting bad.  But, as she always told her children, a person might get in, but he sure wouldn’t leave in the same condition.  Hands clench at that thought, hands that have wrung chicken necks on the farm, picked tobacco, cradled babies and caressed the skin of just one man.

She glances at the phone and then the digital clock on the bureau.  Twelve hours until the hospital allows phone calls.  Then she can hear his voice.  Patient, calming, distracted if the TV is on.  She rises briefly from the bed, unaware of the hollow that she’s worn into the mattress over the years.  She turns down the light to a warm glow and then puts out the cigarette.  Sliding into bed, she draws the covers up to her chin and closes her eyes to wait for morning.

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… a little boy with big bottles of bubbles. Photos of one of my littlest cousins taken by his older cousin. Hope that smile and those bubbles brighten your day.  🙂

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Thanks, L!

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Dorcas is one of a set of two windows purchased by William Amory (1808-1888) in memory of his parents Thomas Coffin Amory (1767-1812) and Hannah Rowe Linzee Amory (1775-1845).

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Located in the north transept of Trinity Church in Copley Square, the window was installed between 1877-1878. According to the literature, both the Amory and Linzee families had long been associated with the parish which was found in 1733. Designed and executed by Burlison & Grylls of London, the window depicts the biblical figure of Dorcas, a woman of wealth, who aided those who were in need. In this case the artist shows Dorcas throwing a garment over someone beseeching her for aid.

 

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It is a beautifully rendered window full of drama and rich colorful detail. See for yourself when you have the chance: http://trinitychurchboston.org/visit/tours

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On my birthday I have to celebrate my parents … the good, the bad and all of the beauty in between.

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From her lovely garden in Brooklyn. These that weren’t eaten on the road back to Boston were sliced up with some cucumbers and celery and tossed with oil and vinegar. Good stuff! 🙂

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I finally found the leaf, curled but not crumbled, at the bottom of a bag. It survived the trip from South Carolina through three states before returning to Massachusetts. It came from a tree in my uncle’s yard originally planted by his wife. One day at the kitchen table she mentioned making a cup of fig tea. I’d never heard of such a thing.

She pointed to the tree outside, wide canopied with dark flat leaves, and said it was too bad we hadn’t been visiting when the branches had been weighted down with fruit and the birds were all about. She sometimes made a jam, she said, but this year she just pulled off some leaves to dry and make tea. As I snapped off my leaf, I promised to photograph it as it dried and then its final journey into tea. She laughed.

I think this leaf has a bit more drying to do and until then makes a fun photographic subject.

 

 

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My earliest memories of my uncle are of a dapper man from New York visiting his big sister (my mother) in Virginia during the summers. He would hang out with my dad drinking my dad’s homemade wine. Then in later years I remember that we would receive beautifully printed Christmas cards that were unlike anything my younger brother and I had ever seen. Several decades have passed since then. My parents have passed away. He’s since moved from New York to settle in South Carolina. Now that travel is difficult for him visiting him was the primary impetus for my recent southern travels.

Uncle Freeman was a silkscreen printer in New York who, while employed at institutions like American Image Editions, printed the works of Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Robert Indiana, Ed Paschke and many other artists. Once he’d learned the art of screen printing he informally taught others including Isabelle Collin Dufresne, known as Ultra Violet. A signed copy of her memoir sits on his bookshelf. “She was famous, right?” I asked my uncle. He said, “She wanted to be.”

When we went to visit my uncle, now 80 years old, I was anticipating an interview where I’d collect tawdry details of Warhol and his parties, the lowdown on the New York arts scene of the 80s and 90s, and so on. But my uncle, ever the gentleman, would only chuckle or smile as we queried him relentlessly. He did share some of the prints he still has in his possession and would describe the techniques used to produce the colors and shading on the page. His wife, who loves butterflies, mentioned accidentally cutting up a Salvador Dali screen print because she was so intent on obtaining the butterflies at the top of the page she did not notice Dali’s signature at the bottom. The altered print hangs quite lovely on a bedroom wall.

It was the art on the walls that kept drawing my attention in my uncle’s modest home. A few screen prints hung,  but mostly the walls were lined with canvas paintings. I began to notice artwork outside as well, paintings on trees and wooden panels. Finally I asked who did all of the paintings and he said, “I did.” His wife pulled more from under a bed and those tucked away in closets.  As for when he did them, he said the majority were done while recovering from prostate cancer. As he received treatment, “I couldn’t do much but I could paint.”

He shared no rhyme or reason for his subjects. “Just whatever came to mind and whatever pens and paints I had available.”

Birds seemed to be a favorite theme.

And then there was Obama. Born in the south in the 1930s, having experienced the realities of racism firsthand, Obama’s election meant a great deal. “I have a better painting of him,” he said as I gazed at this one on the wall, but we never got around to finding it.

He hadn’t painted before the cancer, he said, and he hasn’t really painted since his recovery. But I have encouraged him to do so. In fact I suggested a subject.

In the evenings as we sat down to dinner he would make his way slowly to the front door and open it wide. For the first few days that we visited, there was nothing to see but then the final evening, he said, “Cynthia, come over here.” And there they were, this magnificent flock of birds flying overhead, filling the sky with their dark silhouettes. They all seemed to settle in one far distant tree. My uncle said, “Sometimes there are so many in the canopy they turn the tree into a square.” “That’s it!” I said. “That’s what you should paint next. The birds in the sky.” He listened patiently as I described my vision but in the end he just shook his head and chuckled. 🙂

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