The Long Way Home


Time Travel: 1969-1972
August 18, 2013, 7:45 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , , , , ,
August 1972

August 1972

We cleaned out our studio this past month: 12 large trash bags and three trips to Goodwill later – we find things. Like a copy of “Nights of Arabian Dentistry” that Jeff found in a thrift store. My tiny black wallet that looks like a toddler-sized handbag. A plastic garden gnome that I did have in the trash pile, but Jeff rescued by popping off the head and keeping it. The books – I could spend hours talking about parting with the books. Once I admitted that I’d never read To Kill a Mockingbird or Wuthering Heights ever again, they went straight into the donation pile. It feels good to get rid of things, and to make solid promises to yourself that you will not accumulate like you have been for years. It made me ask why I carted around dated grammar books year after year, or keep clothes that don’t fit anymore. It made me think too about all the things that my mother held that I now own, things that were very important to her when she was alive, like books, and pretty dresses, and photos – especially the photos. “Things” don’t matter, but sometimes those things keep us happy, inquisitive, curious, and creative.  I like looking through these old friend photos that my mother took during a time in her life when she was clearly happiest. They comfort me since she is no longer here to answer my questions, or tell me her stories.

1972

1972

Erica, 1971

Erica, 1971

my godmother, 1971

my godmother, 1971

Lynn, 1969

Lynn, 1969

Virginia Beach, 1972

Virginia Beach, 1972

amazing beehive, 1971

amazing beehive, 1971

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birthday
February 10, 2013, 11:20 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , ,
objects she left behind

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Happy birthday to my mother, who would have been 62 today. She passed away two years ago on January 31, just shy of her 60th. I planned to post something then, but then I changed my mind, wanting that day to myself – birthdays are happier anniversaries to celebrate. Different stages in my grief process make me attached to certain snapshots of her life, and photos I’ve looked at many times, I’m seeing in new ways. Before I looked for answers; now I am learning to live without them. On the last day of her life she said, “I’m pretty damn happy with how it all turned out.” It’s comforting for me to think about – a quiet end to a complicated life.

portrait in blue

portrait in blue

1972

1972



Happiness
May 25, 2012, 5:37 AM
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four girls

After my mother graduated high school in 1969, she got her first taste of independence: a front desk job at the Hilton downtown and a two-bedroom apartment with four other young women. She talked so much about those times in the last years of her life that she became mired in nostalgia, happiest lost in memory. Recently I found the photos in this post among her albums, and I try to match the stories she had told us over the years with the people in them: parties full of weed and wine, wearing micro-mini skirts to work, dancing late at a club called 2000 (I think) over in the North Side – eventually meeting my father at the Wooden Keg, now a Dunkin Donuts. I never had a god-like illusion of my parents that others may have had about their own; they had always been refreshingly — sometimes painfully — human.

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joy ride

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Landscapes
March 8, 2012, 6:59 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , ,

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My mother’s photos are mysteries. No captions scribbled on the backs of them, telling us date and place, so this leaves me wondering why this place or person, that moment. Many of the photos I’ve scanned and posted from her albums over the past year are photos I’ve seen for the first time because she had them hidden away from all of us. I’m most touched and surprised by her creative eye. I thought some of the ones I found last night eerily mirrored ones I may have taken on road trips with Jeff.

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Celebration
February 10, 2012, 6:50 AM
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My mother was never one for ceremony, but birthdays were different. Birthdays — particularly *her* birthday — turned into birth months, and for weeks leading up to the event she’d drop hints on all the gifts she wanted. She always called me on my birthday, recalling details of my birth: how much I weighed, what time I was born, how difficult I was to bring into this world. We’d laugh; not much had changed. I had grown into a complicated woman, and it is only now that I accept how like my mother I am: stubborn, independent and curious, relishing solitude.  We don’t want to admit as we get older that we have become clichés — our parents. Today I’ll celebrate the day of her birth with Suzy-Qs and a can of Pepsi, thinking about how much I miss her since she’s been gone.

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Secret History
September 9, 2011, 6:40 AM
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my mother and my godmother, 1971

In the immediate months after my mother died, I spent a lot of time with her through ephemera – old letters and greeting cards, scraps of paper where she jotted down her thoughts. The most painful to look through was the most recent evidence of her everyday life: doctor appointments scheduled in her day planner; a copy of The Awakening still in a Barnes and Noble bag; the new watch she got for Christmas from my aunt Lorraine, still ticking next to her glasses on the kitchen table. It is much easier for me to reach into her past, to understand her life from where it began so I can understand how it ended. And as these months go on, I’m realizing that it will be a life long process, that most of what I discover will be of my imagination, filling in the blanks because she is not here to answer my questions. And also knowing that even if she were here, that I would still be filling those blanks because she kept so many secrets. I find photos like the one above, hidden behind other photos in their frames. It makes me laugh because she is so happy and beautiful, and curious because it’s hard to imagine that only a few years after this picture was taken, she became my mother.



38 Years Ago
July 22, 2011, 6:38 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , ,

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Check out my groovy parents at Kennywood, 1973. Twenty-one years-old and not yet married. They  had no idea that less than a year later, they’d have a daughter. They had no idea as my mother sat on my father’s lap in the booth, waiting for the camera to flash, that they would have my sister four years later, that their marriage would fall apart in seven years. They didn’t worry about growing old or if their love would last. For them, it was just this moment on film, in a tiny photo booth which no longer exists. I think about this when I look through our old photos because I remember very little about the four of us as a family. I think about how young they were, their disappointments and dreams.




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