April 20th, 2009


Usually I toss a book into my satchel when I head out on a photo shoot. And usually I begin the day with a steaming cup of Columbian at Juan Valdez Cafe, on 57th Street near Lexington. Imagine my surprise when I turned the page and read this, from "Sonnets For Michelangelo," edited and translated by Dr. Abigail Brundin, University Lecturer in Italian and Director of Studies in Modern Languages, at the University of Cambridge:

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Oh, mom

Her: But who is my mother?

Me: Who would you like her to be?

When I was nine or ten, mostly alone in that dreary house, I never thought of a mother. You can’t possibly miss what you’ve never had. It’s as simple as that.

And after I actually met my mother for the first time I was disappointed by her mannerisms, her impatience, her vulgarity. I’d built up a picture in my mind what she OUGHT to be like, rather than the way she was.

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Disgustin' Augustin'

My earliest memory is of July, 1945. I'm sitting on a rough woven straw carpet on the front porch, in warm sunlight. There’s a large trellis beyond the railing covered with blossoms of honeysuckle, jasmine, morning glories and roses with vines of sharp thorns. Buckeyes, elms and maples line Superior Street on both sides, and from that dense mass of green leaves comes a loud buzzing. I wonder what’s making that sound. It’s natural and sort of calming and pleasant, but at the same time seems odd, and nobody, not even grandma, seems to notice it. Beside me is our big white, blue-eyed cat. Its paws are folded beneath him, and his eyes are narrow slits. In the bright sun I feel content, safe. It’s a drowsy pleasantness, a perfect state.

In the window above and behind me is a white, red-bordered flag with two blue stars. Grandma says they are for my father, Chester, and his brother, Alex, who are in the Army. They signed up when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. Alex is in England. My father is stationed on Oahu, in Hawaii. Grandma says war means fighting Japs and Nazis who want to take over the world. Our boys are there to keep that from happening.

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