Crumbling Pictures

November 17, 2009

Going through old photographs is dusty, sentimental and satisfying work.  I’ve spent the day traveling through the past, poring over old albums and pawing through boxes. I’ve promised to come up with new material for the reissue of Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples, and I thought old pictures might make people happy.   But what a journey it’s been!

Here’s the picture of our fourth grade class at PS 41; I’m a little stunned to discover that I can name every person, even Glynn Turman, who was only in our class for one year.  (He left for a role in Raisin in the Sun, and later I heard that he’d married Aretha Franklin.  Wonder if that’s true?)  Here’s my sweet Aunt Lili, squinting into the Hollywood sun, holding one of the miniature Schnauzers that she bred.  Aunt Birdie, eclipsed by the gaudy splendor of my rainbow wedding dress, stands between me and Doug ; she is so tiny that she barely comes to his waist. In the next picture Alice Waters, Marion Cunningham and Cecilia Chiang hover like three fairy godmothers as they cut the cake at my wedding to Michael. (Nancy Silverton, who made it, stands in the background, holding an infant – it must be Ben- and frowning as if she doesn’t quite trust that they’ll do it right. )

The pictures are in no particular order, and they tumble from the box in a dizzying spill of years.  One minute I’m looking at my father’s father, who died in 1913, posing in front of some Alp wearing lederhosen, and the next I’m looking at myself in front of the lake in Taishan in 1980, a long-gone China which no longer exists. I found a whole box of slides from that trip to Barcelona that Colman arranged in the late 80s for Alice Waters, Lydia Shire, Mark Miller, Brad Ogden and Jonathan Waxman.  We are buying food in the Boqueria, we are in restaurants, we are in bakeries.  MOstly we look like we are pretty drunk (we were), and like we’re having way too much fun.

My hands are covered in dust, there are piles of photographs all over the floor and stacked on top of the tablle.  But what I keep wondering is how all these random memories ended up, together, in an apartment in New York in 2009?

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