The Long Way Home


Secret History
September 9, 2011, 6:40 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , ,

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.

Advertisements


Broadway & Second
August 12, 2011, 7:02 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,

*

In the middle of a crushingly busy day, I received a text from my sister. It was an image of a name carved into cement and when I looked closely at the tiny phone screen, I realized it was our mother’s name, a small bright spot of hope in an emotionally trying week. My sister had walked around one of our old neighborhoods in Coraopolis with my niece, showing her the apartment we lived in on the corner of Broadway and Second streets when she found it. I had forgotten that my mother had done this, along with her friend, who had traced “Jeff Loves Maureen 1984” in the pavement close to my mother’s name. My mother was only 33, younger than I am now, but too old to stir up this kind of mischief. The landlord had yelled at her in a mix of Italian and English, but secretly, I think he got a kick out of it because it’s still there after all this time. A few nights ago, I had to take a friend out to the airport, so I drove by beforehand to see it for myself. The house looks mostly the same, brown trim replacing the green, and the new tenants added a porch swing. The cottage next to it is gone, the one where we imagined a witch lived. Our Sicilian neighbor’s house is abandoned, but I remember her bent in black dress and stockings, a scarf tied under her chin, her once-lush garden overgrown with knee-high grass and caged in a chain-link fence. The streets feel smaller and broken. I had lived for so many years in memory, that I had forgotten this was a real place, somewhere I used to call home.

where the witch once lived

a current resident who talked with us about the old neighborhood

the kitten that followed us everywhere



A Gift
July 8, 2011, 6:36 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , ,

*

Today is my birthday and what I wouldn’t give to hear my mother’s voice again. She dreamed of being a writer, but the emotional pain she experienced, especially in her last years, left her without the energy to do it. While organizing her estate a few months back though, we came across a tape recorder that my stepfather had given to her for Christmas. We stood around the kitchen table, curious and heartbroken while my stepfather pressed the play button. And her voice cut through the static of background noise, a blaring episode of M*A*S*H. Over the helicopter whir, she tells us through the tiny metal box, This is Linda, and I’m recording this for the purpose of my book. She pauses; the sound of shuffling papers, something drops to the floor, the theme music to one of her favorite programs. We wait with breath abated. We wonder what secrets she will tell us. Now, how do you turn this thing off? She asks and we laugh. Because it was so much my mother – my mother who was always the center of attention, who wanted so much for people to listen when she filled her heart with stories. Someday I’ll work up the courage to go through her notebooks and read them, but knowing she is there among the pages is enough for me.

*



The Grotto
June 29, 2011, 5:58 PM
Filed under: Maryland | Tags: , , , ,

*

My mother lives in those hills now, off the highway, up a steep mountainside. I imagine she is happy, being in more than one place at a time.

*

*

*

*

 



Funny Face
March 27, 2011, 10:04 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , ,

 

*

At the beginning of this month, I met up with friends for dinners and  brunches, worked on some photos. Caught up writing thank-you’s for the funeral, writing in my journal. Now it’s quiet. Friends who have also lost loved ones warned me this would happen – a flood of condolences. Then life goes on — the part that’s hard for me. I don’t feel depressed. It’s just hard for me to  listen to others’ problems with this heavy weight in my mind. It’s difficult being fully ‘Lisa’ right now. This period in my life is the most surreal I have ever known. Even with all the tears, there has been a lot of laughter too. How is this possible. But it is – side-splitting laughter over the dumbest things. Jeff and I singing our own lyrics to familiar songs. My sister making “ugly face.” Life is absurd, sometimes in beautiful,unexpected ways. Nobody makes me laugh like those two and I need the small things now more than ever.

*

*

*



Utata: Where I Live
March 20, 2011, 9:47 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , ,

"elegy" from the 'Where I Live" project

This photo is part of an essay project I participated in last week for Utata. We described where we live, either literally or figuratively. I’ve been unofficially working on the literal part  over the past winter – as literal as my interpretation of home would get — and I revised some of the entries from blog posts and used them as part of the photo series. Lately I live in a house of grief, and now, that’s just where I’m at. I know it might make some uncomfortable to read about or say something to me, and I’m learning to understand this. There have even been moments of joy these past few weeks – moments where I’m out with friends, where I laugh. And a sharp pang goes through me, knowing that my mother isn’t here anymore. So I continue to try to make sense of this or feel through it with photos and writing.

You can view the rest of “Homesick” here and the collective project here. Really great essays and moving photography.




%d bloggers like this: