I place my nakedness behind another photo and press the metal tabs back into place.
Will anyone find the tasteful (only a slight suggestion of dark nipple) boudoir picture I had done about 15 years ago? Even if I publish multiple best sellers, it won’t cause a stir like Bea Arthur.
My lacey-ness has been hanging in our bedroom since we moved to Reno. I love the picture as I have a rare moment of perfectly permed hair and my nails are done and I actually like my body in the picture. Below it, a framed photo of my dad holding me on our brown and yellow kitchen table. I’m in a light blue frilly dress, about 9-months old. I remember that dress as my mom saved it in a box of baby clothes – it’s hard to believe that I was EVER the size of a doll.
My dad’s nose looks larger than I remember and his skin is dark; he looks Middle Eastern rather than Portuguese. Would he be judged now? He’s in a white undershirt and he’s smiling at me. I look interested in him. There is an ashtray on the table.
For the last 13 years when I go to bed at night I see the two pictures and think it is kinda weird that I have hung a baby picture with my dad and my sexy picture side by side.
My high-school girlfriend Jenna and her family are coming to visit for the first time in years, and they’re staying in the master bedroom. I don’t want her or her husband Karl going to sleep at night, to see the concurrence of innocence and sex.
This morning as I battle with the metal tabs, pressing into my fingers, and replace it with a
photo of my brother, Mom and me and my Uncle Howard’s dog Dingo. We’re tan from hanging out at the beach in La Jolla. I like closing my eyes to this picture – when dad, mom and Uncle Howard were still alive, when Gil was just a happy kid.
I seal up the back and hang the picture up and realize that there is dust in between the frame and the mat. SHIT. I’ll have to deal with this damn frame again when I have time. Maybe Jenna won’t notice.
I’ve made it a huge production getting ready for Jenna and her kids – aged two and three. I imagine my house at kid level and see thirteen years of dust and scuff marks. In the kitchen, there are mystery-drips on the baseboards that give my steak knife a good fight. I must have cleaned this before, for other guests, for other babies, right? My hands are red from so much scrubbing.
Her visit was the impetus for long overdue carpet, some new paint, redecorating – which has put Jim completely over the edge, cutting-into our summer. He won’t let me hang a picture, as I might be a sixteenth of an inch off.
I spend a lot of time in my “mom’s” room which has been empty for over two years. She’d understand my need to “change things up a bit.” How one random thing, a new toss pillow, whatever, can change how you feel when you walk into the same room you’ve been in a million times.
She worked two jobs for most of her career as a RN, even when my dad was alive. She said she wanted to be able to buy things without having to ask. I remember how very excited she was when she brought home an Oil Rain Motion Lamp with a Grecian goddess in the middle. And when we hung her first and only oil painting (which I wonder now if it really was oil) from Montgomery Ward of birch trees – it sure did look “classy” against the dark wood paneling in our rumpus room.
Jim’s up on a ladder dusting the nooks where I have a hat and hat box collection, some over 80 years old, that I forgot about, although I pass underneath it every day. I wonder if Eva, Jenna’s little girl, will want to play dress up with the hats … she is probably still too young. Can I “will” them to her? Will she care?
I think about the Bakelite radios, my mother-n-law’s accordion with mother-of-pearl ivory keys that gets played on select holidays when I’m drunk enough; my dad’s Super 8 movie camera from the 60’s, a ivory bracelet from the 1800’s that an ex-boyfriend gave to me … all this STUFF handed down from long-gone Motta’s and Faria’s.
There are no children in our family and less than five kids I know from my dear friends. I hope that they’ll be close to their Tio and Tia growing up. I imagine when I give Jackson the antique perfescope. I want him to hold it in his hands and care about who else has looked through it.
There is so much stuff to give away; I wonder when they’ll be old enough to truly appreciate it.
When my mom would meet someone new at our house, they’d often leave with some knick-knack or piece of cheap jewelry. Sometimes this would embarrass me. She didn’t have much, certainly not of value, but now I understand.
When we finally called it quits on having kids, years ago, strange to say, part of the grieving
and the adjustment process was realizing that all the pictures of Jim and I, with big hair; the ticket stubs to our first date the Robert Palmer concert in 1988, would most likely end up in landfill. That all the crap we’ve collected, the bins of Dune Buggy parts, the family’s WWII memorabilia, all that STUFF doesn’t really matter.
When Jenna and her family arrive tomorrow, it won’t be how my house is decorated (or how damn clean it is), or how I’ve obsessed about my yard, the pictures that we take, or my homegrown vegetables for dinner.
It will be about the old stories that we laugh about. It will be about Eva and Nick remembering something about their first trip to a place called Reno when they were little. It will be something that will make us smile when all else has changed around us.
Everything else is just stuff.
Very beautiful piece, Chris. I know what you mean about the ‘stuff’ we save and how much meaning it has to us personally. Wondering if it will mean absolutely nothing when we are gone. It’s like the things you see at garage sales..people selling family photos that strangers buy to use the frame, tossing the once so meaningful photo into the trash. I hope I’m raising Jackson to value these things and to be really excited about having your heirloom someday. xx
Thanks Arsk. Maybe he’ll become a musician … we also have a collection of horns, trumpets and saxaphones.
Wow, I loved this – you have a way with the pen – er typewriter – er computer. How did you have time to write this with so much cleaning to do and so many pictures to hang? Nice retrospective and it gives us pause when we put so much importance on “stuff”. It is interesting that as we get older, the stuff no longer holds so much importance. It is the memories though that this “stuff” imparts that we hold dear. I remember many years ago when my mom wanted us kids to start taking some of her stuff, I didn’t understand her wanting to get rid of all the great things that meant so much to our family. Now I understand the feeling of wanting to pair down the things we have collected – although we just want to pass them down to someone who will appreciate them – not get rid of them.
Loved this piece, Chris.