[A Journal Entry, 6.2.21]
I feel the sense of possibilities
I feel the wrench of hard realities
The focus is sharp in the city
The Camera Eye, Rush, 1981
When it comes to my kids’ stuff, I’m a hoarder. There are dozens of bins in the basement filled with all their things. I have written about this before, so I apologize for being back again with the same struggle. I’m still carefully packing all their things away for them to find someday when I am either very old or possibly even, well, dead.
Someday, I will be dead. I remind myself of this on a daily basis.
Keeping all this stuff is so burdensome. Sometimes, I would like to empty the basement and turn it into a game room or a craft room. I’ve tried that a few times but it always ends up reverting to a storage unit where I keep all the things I can’t bear to part with, which is basically everything. But, sometimes, I feel so horrible about using a space for keeping instead of living.
You just can’t even imagine all the stuff that’s down there. Every time I fill a new bin with things they’ve outgrown or outloved, I take great care to pack it all away and while I do this I think to myself, “Someday, when I’m gone, they’ll find this wooden flute and know that I loved them.”
Wrapped up in all this packing and keeping is a lot of fear. I never want them to know the pain of longing for some cherished relic of their past only to discover I haphazardly threw it away. I want them to know I loved it all and found it impossible to part with the things we loved together. The books, the games, the dolls, the trains, the Halloween costumes, the Easter ties, the Christmas dresses.
All My Stuff
All my childhood stuff disappeared. Most of it was lost in all our moves. Twelve different schools in five different states between the ages of five and 18. The constant upheaval was mostly a nightmare, but occasionally, a blessing, especially when I lived in a place I didn’t like. When I left for college, pretty much all I had left were a few issues of Sassy, a prized collection of ‘Teen and Seventeen magazines, and a used baton my friend Linda gave me in 7th grade. It was all sold in a garage sale after I left home.
The baton was engraved with someone else’s name, but it was mine. A hand-me-down that was probably off-balance and too long for my body. That didn’t stop me from twirling it morning, noon, and night. If I’d ever had lessons I would have done well but my father said twirling was too much like dancing and our church forbid dancing. He didn’t mind if I twirled in the front yard, though, and so that is what I did for years. I twirled alone as the sun came up and as the sun went down and as the cars drove by.
There were no boxes of my childhood treasures to pilfer through in the attic when my parents died. There was no attic. No ladder to drawn down from the ceiling and climb. There was no childhood home. Just my mother’s humble apartment. I miss her and childhood treasures could never neutralize her absence. The cuts of silence are always there. Her face, her voice, her hands, no longer present at our simple family gatherings.
My daughter Bridgy twirls baton, a rare and very misunderstood sport. It’s so very hard. This year she won two twirling pageants and is very close to moving up to the next competitive level. On our road trips to contests in Kansas and Texas, she says things to me that I never said to my mother.
I could not say them because of the poverty that defined our lives and the hell my father put us through. We were always just surviving his madness. None of it was her fault. None of it was his fault. When you breathe in atomic dust from nuclear tests you go crazy.
There would be no reparations for my father. And, no recovery from his years as a boxer with the Golden Gloves. He won every fight except the last, which is how it ends for all fighters. I pray he found heavenly reparations when he died. I believe he did and in death was completely healed. My mother, too.
Bridgy’s gentle words hit me so hard they shake the scales from my eyes, my face because I cannot believe my daughter sees me. It is the same with Juliette and Sullivan. They are all so outstanding. God wired me to sacrifice for them and they are the mercy in my life. The sacrifices have been my privilege and I do not need to reap anymore than I have already reaped in just being their mother. Having the chance to spend so many years with them, I feel as if I have won the kid lottery.
The Fountain From Which Flows
And, now Willow has joined the picture. The hardest part about being a young grandmother (I was 50 when she was born) is that I had my last child at 40, so I’m still raising kids myself. I wish I could see Miss Princess Willow every day. Grandchildren are the sweetest gift in life. It’s hard to explain what it feels like to have your daughter’s child run to you, arms open wide. I feel as though I have stepped into my mother’s life and I am the luckiest person in the entire world. The wretched people I’ve had to tolerate over the years stand in stark contrast to the immeasurable grace of God manifested in my daughters, son, and granddaughter. The Fountain from which flows all my blessings will not be outdone by hell.
You don’t have to lurk around this old blog for long before you discover my obsession with pictures. I don’t mean the Ansel Adams or Brandon Stanton kind. I mean pictures that honor a person’s true spirit while simultaneously capturing their reality, be it past or present, perfect or flawed. These are magical photos and they are rare.
I have taken a few magical photos over the years. As a creative, I’m quite average, but I’ve had strokes of brilliance with my photography. Here is what I know about my magical photos. People who have survived extraordinarily awful things or who are highly sensitive people are the only ones who can really take extraordinary pictures. Just like surgery or poetry, taking a magical photo of someone takes time. In the end, you might not get it right. The picture might not flow or rhyme or sing or tear. And, also, you can only produce a magical photo of someone you love or at least understand.
For years, my camera has been pretty silent. I had a special relationship with my Nikon D60, which I stopped using about five years ago. I replaced it with a D600 and we never quite bonded. I’ve tried but so far it’s a no-go. I miss D60 the way I miss Eddi. It doesn’t look like we’re ever going to see each other again.
I See Willow
These pictures of Willow are alright but not really magical. I see Willow and I have yet to capture an image of the little girl I am so privileged to know. Her mama, my eldest daughter, Juliette, has captured her though.
I don’t think there are any magical photos of me; however, one time I posted a picture of myself at 15 on Facebook and everyone loved it. That totally caught me by surprise. I was wearing a polka-dot dress and was holding a daisy while sitting by actual daisies with my dog named Daisy while staring off into the sunset. 😆 I created the composition and my father to take the picture. He was so annoyed and unimpressed. I wanted him to love me, to see me at that moment, contrived as it was, but he could not or would not. He said he loved me and in his own way he did but the truth is, he didn’t think I was good enough. I was a disappointment to him. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. He is gone now and sometimes, I grow terribly sad missing him.
All the Magical Photos of You
But, there are no magical photos of me and this has driven me to find all the magical photos of you — Generation X. The Facebook page for this blog is one of my happy places. That is where I share old pictures of my generation. I love collecting vernacular photos and some are well received. But, very few of the pictures I find are magical. Here is one that I posted about a year ago. People loved this photo so much. Even though it’s a bit grainy and saturated, it didn’t matter. The subjects rise above and transcend photo quality and tell a story that needs no words.
There is an Irish song I play on my evening walks. It’s a beautiful song but I can’t share it with you until I find the perfect photo to post with the lyrics. I’ve yet to come across the picture I’m looking for and longing to find. There just aren’t many magical pictures of Gen-Xers in their teen years. I have collected thousands of them over the years and so I say this without qualification. And, yet, despite this reality, I always have a sense of possibility.