Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is it okay to write about this?

The elephant in the room, the thing I am having a hard time writing about, is this: Our friend Jim died by suicide a week ago today. Jim was the ex-husband of one of my dearest friends and the father of a boy we love dearly, who has been my daughter's friend since kindergarten. I don't know how to write about it. I don't know what is permissible to write. My friend told me to write whatever I want, but how will she feel in a month? She called me last Sunday evening when she got the news and I went over there, stunned and hurt at what they now had to go through, but in some part of me not quite believing it could be true. I hugged my friend at the door and through held in sobs she whispered, "How could he do this to his son? I'm so furious at him." Is that okay to write? I know it is okay for her to feel that, and indeed healthy that she is in touch with the anger that is all tangled up with the grieving.

Her son was on the couch weeping, and when I held him I knew there were no words that could make this okay. Later his girlfriend came over, and his best friend, and one of his band buddies, who was crying too. Jim, a musician himself, used to transport the boys and their equipment to their very first gigs. There was the night when a patron at the club where the boys were playing got drunk and hostile and came at one of the boys. Jim stepped between them and pushed the guy back. The drunk then sucker punched him in the eye, a blow that doctors later said could have injured his brain. Jim had that bruise spreading down his cheekbone for weeks. This kid remembered Jim standing up for him, protecting him, taking his music seriously right from the beginning, and he was bereft. I overheard Jim's son say to his mom, "Wow, he is really upset," to which his mom replied, "Well, a lot of people loved your dad and knew how special he was." Past tense. Is it okay to report that? The other boy who was there, in an entirely organic and wondrous way, took out his iPhone and showed a picture he had of Jim and himself goofing around. They were at the lake on parents visiting day at farm camp, and Jim was shirtless wearing a big floppy woman's beach hat above all his fierce tattoos. Everyone started recalling funny things he had said, and the tears became laughs but the pain was eased not at all.

Now my friend is worried that her son won't talk, that he stays glued to his video game console, escaping his feelings. I try to assure her that the very fact that he can look up from his video game and see her there is a comfort to him. He is coping the best way he can right now. She is such a good mother. She will do what he needs. Her pain is complicated. Her own mother died when she was 16, the age her son is now, at this same time of year. My friend and Jim were separated. This weekend would have made six years since he moved out, but she never asked him for a divorce, because she feared he would hurt himself. He struggled with depression, and last year checked himself into a mental hospital. They kept him for a week, then sent him home. He didn't have the right insurance. He moved in with his mother after his father died. His mother found him when she came home last Sunday. He used a gun. Is that okay to set down? I don't know.

My daughter had a hard time at school this week. She couldn't concentrate. I had made a corn and cheese souffle and she made cupcakes for our friends and our family went over there Monday night to deliver them. The next day at school, in math class, she started crying. Her math teacher asked her what was wrong, and she told him. He asked her to share it with her class dean. They had given out class schedules for senior year that day, and that night, when she couldn't find it in her bag and realized she'd misplaced it, she dissolved into tears. She is not usually so breakable. I realized we needed to talk and process things. It was good that she and another friend went over and spent most of Tuesday night with Jim's son. They played video games and watched a movie, and they were talking and laughing together as teenagers do. And yesterday, over lunch at Ikea, we had a good talk about all of it. Today at sundown, we are getting together with friends in a roof garden for a pot-luck whose sole/soul purpose is to encircle the grieving with love.

We go on. Nothing about losing Jim is remotely okay, but we go on.

Photo Play

The photograph here is me at age 18. I had promised to post a picture from my teen years, but the photos from that time are all faded to a general brown with lint-like spots that did not come from the scanning glass. I tried to minimize the lint in this image, not entirely successfully. I did not smile in photographs from that time. It was pre-braces, not pretty; I didn't wear orthodontics till I was 23 and newly a working reporter. I must have been self-conscious about my teeth before that, even though I spent a lot of persuasive energy convincing my dad there was no need to mess with nature. I couldn't correct the color of this print much, but was able to make the image sharper. I sported a kinky-fuzzy-curly afro until I graduated from college. Sometimes it got very large, like a stop sign. Not in this picture, though. I am at the back door of our house at 37 Paddington Terrace, during the summer after my freshman year. My father took this picture.

I've been playing around with photo editing programs this evening, just seeing what they can do. Here is an image taken when our girl was 11, during her summer at farm camp. It was parent visiting weekend, and the kids had already been cavorting in the lake by the time the parents arrived. I snapped this picture of my husband and daughter greeting each other. It was a precious moment but a very unsatisfying photo because the color was pretty washed out. Picnik did a fabulous job of punching up the color and now I think the photo isn't half bad.

We took our niece to the airport this morning and now she is back in Jamaica, plotting a beach trip tomorrow. Jealous. We spent the afternoon in Ikea, and came home with a chair and a bookshelf for our son's room, and some cool accent pieces. My daughter and I are having a ball putting the room together before my son returns next weekend. Oh, he got himself another tattoo over there in England. On his ribs. This is number two, which means there will most likely be a third at some point. They say people either get one or three. They never stop at two. Not sure how true that is, but it's what I've heard. Here is the first tat he got, a stone cross and wings, which he said was in honor of his grands who had passed on. I manipulated this in Picnik, too, slightly blurring everything but the tat, boosting the black and giving the image a polaroid frame.

One more. I wanted to see my son's face in this post. I wanted to make this one look like it was done with lomography, a new-old process that has me a little intrigued. I miss my boy and look forward to his coming home a week from today.

Research: What are your favorite photo editing programs? Why do you like them? What do you mostly use them to do?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Here Comes The Sun


Sometimes the universe delivers to your heart just what you need. Today it came in the form of this post from Grady doctor. I have not been to see a doctor in years. Ironically, when I started this blog back in June 2008, it was to push myself to begin taking better care of me. I dipped my toe in the water and then sat on the shore, never following through, at least not in the medical sense. This morning, I pulled up a chair and set down my coffee and had a good long visit over at Reflections of a Grady Doctor. She is a bedrock good soul, such a good mother, friend, doctor, wife, human being. You can just tell. She cares about her patients, which somehow makes me feel as if she cares about me. I can't explain it. Or, more truthfully, I choose not to. But my throat is full and it is not from sadness. It is from sheer wonder at the way this works. Thank you feels like a cliche, but it is what I can do. Thank you, especially because of them.

"If you're lucky, 
everything you do is in 
the context of love."

—Ms. Zebedee

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


My cousin and his brood took family pictures. They are so beautiful next to their white wooden louvers and Caribbean orange and green, the sun is so deep in their skin, the sea breeze teasing through. I had to put the pictures up here, because this is where I put everything that I want to be sure to remember, and see again.

Monday, May 23, 2011


This is the man who taught me never to judge a human by his cover. I will miss him. I will smile at the memory of our animated debates and conspiracy theories and the way we tossed ironies back and forth. I will remember the twinkle in his eye, the blatant tell that he was only playing at provocateur. And I will never forget the love and pride pouring from him whenever he gazed on his son. I am sorry this life was so hard for you, Jim. We will be there for your beloveds. Rest in peace.

Last evening

Two dear friends are suffering the worst agony tonight. Her heart is shattered. Her boy's heart is in shreds. Hold your loved ones tight.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


My son embarked of a major purge of his possessions this week. Since coming home, each day he has immersed himself in the task of divesting himself of homework papers and binders and textbooks dating back to elementary school, clothes he long ago outgrew, broken toys that had amassed themselves under his bed, shoes and games and school dioramas and odds and ends from his growing up life.

I asked him to save all artwork and certificates and diplomas. And of course he did not touch his scores of track and field and soccer trophies and medals and plaques. Nor did he reduce his collection of shot glasses, which he started at the tee-totaling age of 14. I didn't fight it. Now when his friends travel they bring him back the coolest miniature glass they can find, and some of those pieces are real artworks. I argued with him to keep the science projects, large presentation boards representing months of investigation into such self-chosen subjects as "How Do Crystals Grow?" (third grade), "Do Fingerprint Patterns Run in Families?" (fourth grade), "Can Bacteria Grow on Soap?" (fifth grade), "Does Handedness Indicate Brain Hemisphere Dominance for Ear, Eye and Foot?" (seventh grade). In the end I kept only two, persuaded by his, "You see, Mom, this is why my room looks like this. You have to let it go!"

Out went the 30-gallon fish tank, empty of fish for several years now. Out went the listing bookcase and most of the books that crammed its shelves, no doubt holding it upright. Out went the dragon-themed boogie board on which he surfed waves in St. Lucia and Antigua, and the Razor scooter on which he spent a boyhood summer racing down a hill with his friends. He found his ancient Gameboy with the yellow Pokemon cartridge still installed. It worked perfectly. That was a thrill. He took a break of several hours to reengage with all the knitted concentration I remember from when he was a 9-year-old mastering the different levels of Pokemon. He found a diary he had written in on the first day of fourth grade, with the next entry on his first day of high school. He wrote an entry in it and then re-hid it in his room, with the idea that that whenever it surfaces again, he will look back and see who he was, and write a new entry.

When he was done his closet held only his long ago Eagle Scout uniform and little towers of books on the floor. He then convinced his sister and cousin and best childhood friend (who basically lives here when my son is home) to help him launder the explosion of clothing he carted home from school. The four of them dumped the freshly washed clothes out on the living room floor and folded or buttoned and placed them on hangers. When all was done he made neat piles on his bed, packed one suitcase of clothes to last two weeks, and packed the rest in the other two suitcases he brought from college.

Now he is on a plane, headed to England for two weeks to hang out with friends in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Leamington, Stratford-on-Avon and London. He is traveling with two of his longtime camp buddies, a young lady and a young man to whom he became close when all of them were 11 and 12 years old. When he returns, a friend from last summer, a fellow counselor at the camp he worked at, will be with him. She will spend a week with us, quartered in my son's room, and the plan is for my son to show her around New York. Then we will drive the two of them up to the camp in the woods, where they will once again be counselors together all summer.

I gather these two had a "thing" last summer, and they have kept in touch all year. I don't know where things stand now. They may be just good friends, as he says. Here is what I do know: The first thing my son did with his earnings from last summer was buy his textbooks. The second thing he did was buy the plane ticket he is using tonight. There's also this: Many of his friends have stayed in our home and he has never before betrayed the slightest care about the state of his room. So I wonder about the gusto with which he cleaned this week. And now, I get to redecorate the newly blank canvas while he is away.

Gullies for Life

Gullies for Life = BFFs, which these two have been since day one of high school. They went to the prom with other people, actually. But clearly they provided some goofball comfort to one another during the proceedings, which were much more stress filled than you want to imagine. Suffice it to say, in the end, my husband did a lot of ferrying. He is a good dad. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ship of Souls

While folks are talking about the rapture, I'm thinking about the huge spirit work my brother in law is doing on the restoration of St. John's Cathedral in St. John's, Antigua. This was the church where I first saw my husband, and where two years later I first introduced my parents to his mother after Christmas morning service in 1983. Two Christmases ago, while a school group was rehearsing a pageant play, a teacher fell through the floor of this 164-year-old Cathedral, alerting everyone to the fact that it was crumbling beneath our feet. Fortunately, the teacher was not badly hurt and recovered fully. In the months following, the particular events of my brother in law's life positioned him to step into the role of project manager, chronicler and archivist of this massive restoration project. He's perfect for it. His love for this church, in which he grew up and where his mother's final service was held, is boundless. 

I once remarked to him that his photographs of the project remind me of a great ship, both the inside views taken from the Nave, and the outside shots, which could only have been taken by standing on the soaring deck of a roof. A few weeks later, he sent me this email:

"Hi Sis, I was doing a report when I came accross this definition of the floor layout of a cathedral. What caught my eye was the following text: 'The nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. Nave (Medieval Latin navis, "ship") was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting.' Your impressions of the roof of the cathedral were quite on the money."

All his experiences, every gain and loss, even the events that seemed like wrenching setbacks, led him to this. I'm thinking how we're all together in this ship of souls, and we never know what is in store for us. No matter how we try to control the way things unfold, really all we can do is take committed action and then reach for serene detachment from the outcome. For our brother, the outcome turned out to be this sacred work of restoring to its former glory a Cathedral that has cradled two centuries of prayers. 

This train of thought reminds me of my favorite quotes, attributed to Lao Tzu. It goes like this: "Knowing love, I will allow all things to come and go, to be as supple as the wind, and take everything that comes with great courage. Life is right in any case. My heart is open as the sky."

Caught Up in the Rapture

From Matthew 24—6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but do not be troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet…   36 No man knows that day and hour, no, not the angels of heaven, but God only.

As these marchers await the end of times in New York City, my daughter is getting ready for prom. Not hers. She was asked to be the date of a senior. She and my niece are at the hair salon getting their hair did. It was she who first alerted me that the world is supposed to end today. The last time the rapture was supposed to come, my daughter had just been born. I wonder what miracles are in store this time?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stress Release

The photograph above was taken by my son's roommate, whose family lives just outside of the town where they attend college, and in whose home my son has been a welcome guest during the school year. I appreciate this family folding my son in. They are lovely people, who opened their doors to us, too, inviting us to dinner while we were in town to pack up our son and our niece from their sophomore and junior years respectively. My son's friend's mother told me at one point how similar our boys are, separated at birth, she joked, and then she said with sincerity, "I cannot tell you how much we have come to love this kid." I was so touched. And just a teeny bit jealous because they get to see his life during his long months away from us. Indeed his Facebook status on the day after he completed his sophomore years was, "What a great start to the summer. Slept for hours on Brian's couch. Woke up to find the dogs staring me in the face."

Apparently, he has formed a special relationship with the family's two dogs. There was much joking about how much they were going to miss him over the summer, and would he promise to Skype. Growing up, my children always begged for a dog, but never managed to convince us that a small New York City apartment already crammed with four people and numerous family members coming through was a good place to raise an animal. My husband and I both grew up with dogs, and they had the free rein of a yard. Confining them in an apartment didn't appeal to either of us. But watching my son with his friend's dogs, I couldn't help wondering if he might have been less stressed as a child, if his personality structure would have been wired a little looser had he been able to play as he does with those two dogs. 

My son is somewhat irritable with me, as if he would rather be back at school, not having to deal with his mother and her unspoken wishes and demands. This is a trying-not-to-cry post, and I realize there is always the possibility that I am wrestling with internal chemistry and not reality. Still. We arrived in town and our son grudgingly left his friends to come and greet us, and then went right back to wherever the party was happening. I did understand. I remembered when my parents would come to town when I was in college. It felt like I was leaving my real life behind, stepping out of the flow of it to go and spend time with them at my Aunt Winnie's house. I couldn't wait to get back to my friends, to whatever aimless scene we might have been involved in. That was where the real connection lay, the real surge of electricity that made me feel alive. I wanted our son to pretend to be a little happier to see us, though. I felt a little hurt by his can't-wait-to-be-away-from-here demeanor at dinner the first night. 

We took all the college kids to a very nice Tuscan restaurant in town. I could see our son was itching to be done with the parental obligation so he could get back to the real proceedings. I know. I get it. Really, I just wanted him to be in the moment, to be with us while he was with us. As my niece was, and as his best friend from high school who goes to college in the same town also managed to be. I guess what worried me more is he seemed to be brooding about something. Or maybe we're just too similar. His dad does a much better job of letting him be. He doesn't take in his prickly moments. He takes him as he is. I am trying to do the same. 

I missed all of the packing and storing of belongings because my husband covered that front, making multiple trips back and forth to the storage locker while my daughter and I were doing a college tour. The morning we left to drive back to New York, my son's mood lightened a bit. It was as if he was now ready to reenter the family unit, to reconnect. We stopped to got road trip supplies first.  

Then we piled into our jeep that was stuffed to the gills with student paraphernalia. Our son drove while the girls watched a movie on my niece's laptop.

After the movie my niece went to sleep and my daughter turned to assigned homework, having missed two days of school. I looked across at one point and saw she had made a big "Holy Shit!" note in the margin of the play she was reading, Ruined by Lynn Nottage. (That is for Ms. Moon, who worried about teenage girls reading profane language on her blog. Put your heart at rest, Ms. Moon.) Once home, my son and my niece immediately took up their just-back-from-college positions on the couches while my daughter and I watched the taped finale of Survivor before she turned to homework in earnest. 

It is good to see their familiar sprawl across the furniture. It is good to close my door at night and know that all my babies are inside and safe. Never mind the moodiness of this post. This is my life and no matter how it ebbs and flows, no matter how my brain and heart chemistry can wreck the moments, all of it is pretty damn splendid. Yes, there is a fist in my chest sometimes. But even then I am filled with so much love for these people I think I might burst. Welcome home, my loves. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

After the Tour

She found a college she loves. She thinks she wants to go there. And after all the excitement and meeting and listening and touring, she came back to the hotel room and turned the television to the Food Network, which she watched for some minutes as she let the exhaustion settle into her. And then she slept like the child she still is, my child full of dreams, spent from wishing, planning, doubting, believing, finally letting it be. She possesses wisdom beyond my years, a patient hope, a willingness to release the caught breath and let her life unfold.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blue and Moon

"Don't tell me the moon 
is shining. Show me the glint 
of light on broken glass."
—Anton Chekhov

That quote brings back a memory. I'm awash with memories this month! Perhaps it is the nostalgia that comes with birthdays once you reach a certain age. Anyway, I remember showing my mother a story I had written when I was seven or eight years old, and she responded with a comment that had been made to her by a teacher when she was a student. She said, "Don't tell me the Duchess raved. Bring out the Duchess and let her rave!" Thanks to my mother, I was not yet ten years old when I learned the difference between "showing" and "telling." At work, when we editors write comments on each other's stories, the comment I most hate to see is "telling, not showing." But when I do see it, I remember my mother and her Duchess raving, and I know what to do. 


"People can't understand why a man 
runs. They don't see any sport in it. Argue it lacks the sight and thrill of body contact. Yet, the conflict is there, more raw and challenging than any man
 versus man competition. For in running it is man against himself, the cruelest of opponents. The other runners are not the real enemies. His adversary lies within him, in his ability, with brain and heart to master himself and his emotions."—U.S. Olympian Glenn Cunningham

My son typed out these words and pasted them on his bedroom door when he was 14 years old and had just joined his high school track and field squad. The quote is still there five years later, the paper curling over at the margins, the scotch tape edged in dust, waiting for his return. On Sunday, we are driving upstate to pack up our college boy up and bring him home for the summer. Our niece will also be traveling back with us, on her way through to Jamaica. In between the packing up and sorting and storing of belongings, our daughter will get in a couple of college visits. One of her first choice schools will be nearby. All that to say we're off on an adventure and I may be out of touch for a while. See you when we return. 

Snap, Crackle

As of today, my son is a rising junior. Two years of college under his belt already! His life plans are evolving too, and I am enjoying my role as receptive listener as he works out how he wants to set himself up for the next step. In high school, he eschewed a long graduate program in general and medicine in particular, saying it was just too many years in school. But now he is seeing how quickly those years go, and he is reevaluating.

He's still interested in sports medicine, and also in being trained to the hilt as a first responder, and sometimes he even flirts with the idea of being an army medic, which makes my heart seize. But I just listen, because to do anything else would cause him to stop sharing his thinking, and there are several other good options he is weighing as well. Besides, we are now at the stage where the clay of his life is his own to shape. I am merely an intensely interested and loving spectator. The main thing is he is actively thinking and planning for his future, and that thinking and planning involves his intention to make a living. Success!

Here he was with one of his two roommates, this one also on the track team, on move in day last August, the first day of his sophomore year. My son has been very fortunate with roommates. These guys have become like brothers.

Here is my boy with his fellow trackies at States last weekend. My son placed sixth in high jump and didn't place in hurdles because of a collision with an adjacent runner who fell into his lane. He was somewhat disappointed with his performance, but not so much that he didn't put his whole heart into cheering for his other teammates.

Looking at these pictures, it's seems to me my boy is among kindred energies. Indeed, my son has described how he and his roommate, the fellow trackie in the grey hoodie above, will be standing in a group talking and they'll just start to bounce on their heels and bob their arms up and down just to throw off all the buzzing energy. Then they'll break into laughter at the fact there is another human being in the world who understands the electric crackle they live with. Thank God for track is all I have to say.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


My blogger friend Olga has just returned from St. Martin where she got to experience carnival for the first time. The colors and the people in her photographs are so familiar and gorgeous and vibrantly alive to me, in scenes that play out up and down the emerald arc of Caribbean islands each year. Jamaica has recently finished its carnival. Trinidad's world-class celebration was the month before. Antigua is just gearing up for its carnival at the end of July. As I call back the body memory of dancing all night and road marching all day, as I daydream the sounds of steel pans and colorful costumes and the wildly festive atmosphere, I imagine playing mas at a carnival next year. Mas, by the way, is short for masquerade, the riotous displays of paint and feathers and glitter and beads and baubles that capture the jubilation of the road march. I hope Olga will forgive my reposting one of her pictures because I just can't get over the intensity, the explosive joy of the red in this picture. I think I've never truly seen the color red before.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Front Gate 1975

Looking through old photo albums this week, I found this snap I made of the front gate at 37 Paddington Terrace, the last house in Jamaica that I lived in and the heart home for which this blog is named. This was the gate I went through in 1975 when I moved to New York City from Kingston. This was the gate that ushered me out into the world to embrace my future. Seeing it now makes me feel rather sentimental because the house in which I came of age is no longer there. In its place are spanking new townhouses that hold no memory of the stories that we lived on that sloping plot of land, no trace of the red and white house brushed on all sides by mango trees, no hint of the walls and windows and rooms that gave birth to and sheltered all our secret dreams.

My Other Mother

In my life, truly, lightening did strike twice, because I was blessed with not just one great mother, but I found another filled with sublime selfless love when I married my husband. His mom passed away two summers ago, and the void in our lives is made bearable only by our memories of her. On this day, I am sending up a prayer of gratitude for my other beloved mother, who with my father-in-law raised the man who would one day father my children, and gave me a much loved sister and brother, too. It is true that events don't always unfold the way any of us might wish, and yet with all the losses and miscues that are part of life, the love we each hold for this Woman of God is perfect and infinite and redemptive and true.  

My heart's quiet home

"One sonnet more, 
a love sonnet, from me 
To her whose heart is 
my heart’s quiet home"

—Christina Rossetti

I know I am one of the lucky ones, to have a mother such as I have had, whose love I never had to question, whose pride in me I had the luxury of being embarrassed by when I was younger, whose laugh always struck my ear as rich music, whose arm always felt soft and cool to my fevered cheek. I recall my mother gently coaching me face up to my mistakes when I was ten, on a morning when I feigned a stomach ache as a ploy to stay home rather than go to school and serve a detention for some infraction I had committed. I no longer recall what I did, it may have been some spoken impertinence to a teacher, all I remember is I tried to hide it from my mother, who knew anyway, perhaps the school had called her. That morning she sat at my bedside with her hand on my forehead as she explained that one could not run away from one's wrongs, one had to find the courage to meet them squarely, to make them right or to make amends. She wasn't angry with me or even disappointed in me for what I had done, and even at that age I understood that as a powerful testament to her belief in me. This was just part of the learning is how she seemed to take my misdeed. Her point was that I could not shirk the consequence, that would be cowardly and unworthy of who she knew me to be. I have no idea why this is the recollection that comes up for me today. But it is as good a reminder as any that I have been gifted beyond measure. I don't take it for granted. I love you, Mom.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lies I tell myself

It is a gorgeous spring day, the leaves brand new and green on the trees at my window, the sunlight filtering down from a blue sky in a luminous watery yellow, and for some reason it makes my heart ache. It makes me feel lonely despite the fact that I am here in the midst of my family, my husband watching English Premier League soccer, my daughter escaping homework by watching the first season of Gossip Girl on her laptop, soon to leave the house to meet up with her friends who took their SATs this morning. She opted to take the ACTs instead, and so has the morning free, but will join the rest of them in the hidden garden on one of their Manhattan rooftops, where they plan to lounge in their sunglasses and slather on sunblock and listen to music and read Cosmo and Glamor and Seventeen and usher in the spring afternoon in the most perfect manner I can imagine.

I envy them, their connectedness and youth, their embrace of their world, their ability to be spontaneous and do. I feel so inert, unable to seize the day, to truly inhabit it. I feel imprisoned somehow, looking out at all that blue and yellow and green from a high window, locked away from it, offended by the way it beckons to us, but not me. I have the strange sensation of not being invited to the party, or if I am invited, not knowing how to join in. I have never loved spring. It demands engagement and lightheartedness and outdoor imagination and I have trouble leaving my house, even to go to work every day, so it helps to have bleak weather outside. I feel less assaulted by my inadequacies under grey skies, on rainy days. But on days like this one, I am at a loss. Stupidly, my heart aches and I want to be anyone but me.

The feeling makes no sense really. None. In a short while I will be going with my husband to the Apple store and maybe after we will walk up Broadway and people watch and maybe go to the park and then I have plans for this evening. I will be meeting up with friends to drink wine and make panini and celebrate birthdays, and talk and lounge and do nothing but what we please. I love these woman and enjoy spending time in their company. This is how I know the moodiness that has invaded me is treacherous chemistry. It is the unconscious playing tricks, telling me that I am not okay. I am wrong, wrong, wrong. Telling me the lie I hold most dear without ever having understood the why.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Passport Pictures

In sorting through photos for my last post, I found these passport pictures that my husband and I took the same month we were married. It was a week before our wedding, and I remember vividly standing in that long winding line with him at the passport office in Rockefeller Center in 1986. We were there for hours, but all I remember is being completely happy and entertained the whole time, one of those moments in life where there was nowhere else I wanted to be but where I was in the company of this man. That day in the line, we talked, we laughed, we leaned against each other and people watched, and I realized then what has been true since: I can have a great time wherever I am, whatever I am doing, whatever is or isn't happening around me when this man is around. The air around me feels lighter and brighter when he walks into a room. I guess it's a good thing I married him. That was 25 years ago this August.

Another thing I'm beginning to understand is that I enjoy studying my passport pictures and thinking about all the places those particular pictures have carried me. I think it comes from being born on an island. You're always looking outward to the larger world, across the sea. I'm struck by how my expression in this picture is much the same as my expression in my five-year-old passport picture in the previous post. It's part of what so captivates me about the evolution of faces. Every previous face of ours exists in the face we wear now. I find that comforting.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Autobiography of My Face

In honor of my birthday yesterday, here I am through the decades. This is something I have wanted to to do for a while, and it's something that would thrill me no end if you would do too. I love seeing the evolution of faces, especially when people choose their own pictures, which means they are showing themselves as they don't mind being seen. How about it? A post of your face through the decades? If you choose to do it, I hope you'll leave a link to your post in my comments!

From top:

1. Me at age one, having stolen my mom's nail polish, a family joke since my stubby nail bitten fingers have never worn polish, not even on my wedding day.

2. At age four. This was my passport picture taken before we traveled to London, where we spent a formative year of my young life. I wrote about it here.

3. At age thirteen, the year we moved to the house on Paddington Terrace that gave this blog its name. I keep thinking I was younger in this photo but the date stamp on the back says differently.

4. Age nineteen, home from college for the summer holidays. This was the year I told my father that I would not be coming back home after college, that I was staying in New York. I remember he cried.

5. In my mid-twenties, on assignment in Ft. Wayne, Indiana for Life magazine. I was in the airport restaurant as the sun came up. The lensman was Michael O'Brien, an incredibly gifted photographer and lovely human being, with whom I especially enjoyed working.

6. At age thirty-one, already a married lady, not yet a mother. This was taken on the gallery of my husband's family home in Antigua.

7. In my forties, well into motherhood. My babies are twelve and nine years old here. Their dad took the picture; you can see that in the softness of our eyes.

8. And this is me now, taken last Memorial Day, on a walkabout in Riverside Park. The photographer is my husband. He sees the me I want to be, even as I climb into my fifties.

Mainly, I wanted to do this post for my children.