Monday, July 20, 2009
La Vie Boheme
I come from a line of artists. My mother paints, photographs and creates jewelry, among other things. Her passion for creating things -- above and beyond creating four lovely daughters -- is almost insatiable.
My father, a surgeon, apparently dreams of both fishing and painting -- making paintings. I had seen a small painting in his closet, when I was a child, of a... was it an old mill on a river? I just remember its colors.
But they share that thing.
My father's father was an artist. He designed cars. Planes. Machines. Created.
And my mother's father told me before he died that he thought I'd be a musician, but for some reason that art has always intimidated me more than the others. I can sing. I can play. I can feel my way through a song. But I never had the training one needs to do it for real. I resent that a little. My piano lessons fell by the wayside when my teacher moved when I was 11. I want to learn classical guitar. I think I shall.
I almost went to art school. Instead, I went to Dartmouth.
And now -- now I find myself wondering how to leverage these eyes. The hazel/olive/golden-green eyes that, I think, maybe, can see things. I pushed myself to study photojournalism. I claimed writing came easier... but it comes the same. In fact, the pictures -- framing, seeing, making art -- comes more easily than the words. I can make pictures every day. The writing must fester in this over-wrought brain. I feel self indulgent tonight. I'm certain to annoy. Solipsistic. Je suis l'etat.
We sometimes make choices because we think we need to prove ourselves. To whom, when we really get down to business, often exposes our insecurities.
I do what I do because I needed to show everyone -- to show myself -- that I could. That I can. But it is not enough.
It is far, far from enough.
My circumstances have given me the gift of choice, but I have always chosen the safe, mainstream, "right-for-my-career" path. But I have never chosen the path that was right for my heart and soul. For the things that long for release. Sharing the things I see.
Thinking about my last post, it echoes the same hesitancy to feel superior/important/listen-to-me that I shun.
We carry our parents burdens. My own feel a class disparity that I fall on the wrong side of, to some in my family. I was picking up a low-budget purple chenille sofa from a discount furniture store with my parents, in the Jeep SUV that I would eventually trade for the cost of "towing it off the lot because the cabin filled with fumes... thanks parents..."
My father turned to my mother and all I remember was "and your family were the workers..."
Not even the exact words, but I remember. And she was furious. It was the first time I had seen him breach that divide. Iron and steelworkers. Wonderful, talented people.But the teams were not the same. My grandfather never went to college, yet he built Temple University's stadium. But my father's father was also Ivy League. Got a degree from Penn. In 1929.
If I could meet one person... I would choose him. I am certain we would know each other.
I think he could unlock so many of my secrets that I ache to know what that man -- that man who Alma, my grandmother, stole from his girlfriend because she "set her hat on him," according to my mother's grandmother. Immigrant Polish Philadelphia was incestuous. Love? If not, at least a premonition.
And by some mercy, my father's parents made my father at the same time my mother's parents made my mother... Although they were more than half a generation apart in age.
And knowing the love I feel for my niece, my next-sister's daughter, our only offspring -- of course last weekend when I joked about moving into the house next door to my parents' to stay hear -- and my father turned and told me that I already had a dock and a boat and a home. Theirs was mine. I never assumed so.
Even now, how much my father loves me can crush me.
And seeing how much I love Diana, my precious, gorgeous, perfect niece, I fear crushing my own children with the weight of my love, seeing how tightly I just want to squeeze her. (I don't.) I would give her anything I could even remotely lay a claim to.
Which brings me back to the title of this essay: La Vie Boheme.
I -- for the first time -- am seeing my choices through the eyes of someone who will judge me, and I get to choose what she/he/they/our family's babies see as "Jennifer." I am a writer/photographer/artist/firecracker or I am the woman-who-makes-safe-choices....
(Yes, they are going to Dartmouth regardless. All of them. If I have to buy every admission with donations. Get used to it.)
What I am choosing requires tremendous faith in myself. And I think I have always lacked that -- and I think may of you will be surprised by that. Several of you will say "yeah, dork..." And others will mumble "it's about fucking time...."
I will spend most of my savings on my mortgage, building maintenance payments and my health insurance. Those are my absolutes.
But with the weight of every stranger's gaze I meet weighting down on me, why else was I given this gift? But it is not a philosophical essay I seek to make my end game right now.
I want to capture your soul in a picture. Let me.