Usually these monthly posts are where I get philosophical. Here we go.
In the last six months two older, distant European relatives of mine have died–the second just a few weeks ago. Their combined age was close to 200, so these deaths were unsurprising; my relationships with them had been somewhat muted the last few years, and so (at least for me) this was a case of “the mourning occurred long before the death.” As they lived most of the last 55 years in the States and had few living family members, my mother is executor. She found three boxes filled with what she says are thousands of photographs. But despite these distant cousins being part of our family for over 50 years (my grandparents sponsored them when they came to country, taught them English, gave them a place to stay, and got them their first jobs), very few photographs featured any of our family members. There were dozens of photos of rich European people’s houses, and a bunch of pheasants in various stages of rigor mortis (they used to hunt annually). But there were very few of the actual “family” who was close enough to help them get out of Europe at a bad time and who was close enough to be caretakers and executors.
My mother was hurt by this, and most people (myself included) find that completely understandable. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think that a certain number of photographs (or lack thereof) is not “proof” of who or what a person finds important.
For instance, I’ve been in a relationship for going on two years now. We’ve driven and flown thousands of miles to see each other since I moved to Chicago. We’ve taken care of each other when we’re sick. We’ve met each other’s family and friends, and have had some serious talks about our future together. I’m crazy about the guy. But we felt the need, starting our relationship in such a small town, to keep things secret [definitely retrospectively a VERY wise decision]. We didn’t want there to be any “evidence” for gossip and possible shit-stirring.
Where am I going with this? Neither one of us has a single photograph of “us” [his parents took one of us last time we were all together on an actual camera with film, so who knows if we’ll ever get a copy of THAT…]. It gets worse: I only have one photograph of him (well, a few blurries, but only one actual photo). I have dozens of the family dog, and hundreds of food in various stages of preparation. But only one of him and none of us. On the flip side, he’s the only person left in America with a flip phone. So he has no pictures period. Is this “proof” that I love food more than I love him? No. Is this “proof” that he doesn’t love me at all? No.
But just like these Europeans dying and leaving behind more photos of dead birds than of Christmases with our family, it doesn’t look good.
I’ve known for a long time that there are a lot of different ways people express love and care. But what this moment has taught me is that you probably should express your love and care in as many ways as you can.
I am so looking forward to the summer, it’s not even funny. It will be three solid months of all the things I truly love. I will be splitting my time between three of my favorite places: Atlanta, Athens, and the non-crazy parts of North Carolina. I’ll get to see my folks, and my guy, and my closest friends (both the ones I met through academia, and before). I get nine solid weeks working with awesome people on what hopefully will prove to be awesome research problems. I get to not live alone and will have people to come home to and share meals with. Hell, for most of this time there’ll even be a DOG around which is an added bonus.
And when I’m there, I’m going to make damn sure that everyone knows how happy I am and how grateful I am to be there. And I’m going to take LOTS of pictures.
- Heroes and Villains, Beach Boys
- You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, the Beatles (for some reason this can’t be found, so here’s Oasis covering it)
- Thirteen, Big Star
- River, Leon Bridges
- Who Knows Where the Time Goes, Fairport Connection
- Ragged Wood, Fleet Foxes
- Hold On, John Lennon
- Liability, Lorde
- Better Days, Graham Nash
- My House, Lou Reed
- All or Nothing, Small Faces
- Femme Fatale, Velvet Underground