Saturday, October 08, 2005

One Summer

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My mother had been an outgoing, vivacious woman. She had dressed well in public, always knew what to say, and was "cool" with my friends. A curious mixture of avant-garde and staunchly traditional, she had been the family breadwinner long before "role-reversed" marriages became acceptable. The same had been true of her own mother during the Great Depression, and of my paternal grandmother. And I continue the practice....

My mother smiles engagingly in most non-candid photos of her, which is why I treasure this small black-and-white shot, likely taken in the early- to mid-60s. She sits in our back yard in Brooklyn, on a swing set installed when I was quite young. (By the time I had reached high school, the swing set had been taken out and the back yard converted into a vegetable garden.)

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She wears an old housedress, is without her usual facade. I treasure not her sadness so much as her honesty. She had shown for the camera what I had rarely seen her show to anyone outside the immediate family.

I like to think I have inherited her brave front, her smile as quick as her wit, balanced out by a capacity for truth. A few years after this photo was taken she suffered her first major heart attack at age 44, which placed her facade and what lay beneath it further at odds. In the collage a generations-old piano shawl backdrops her ghostly form. The shawl reminds me of her spirit, breaking through her sadness.


Blogger Twyla said...

Oh Elissa, that was so touching. Parents aging and passing on is very sad. This honors your mother and shows her to me. Thank you.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous colleen said...

Last year I wrote an essay for my dad's 80th. Then my mother asked if I would write her one. I'm working on it...but it's very many triggers there, if you get my drift. I'm always very moved when people share their real life and talk about family and family roots.

11:27 AM  

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