an on display collaboration : what I'm not thankful for
November 23. 2000
Thanksgiving in Lebanon:
Mom and Charcoal (my extremely mushy and adorable cat)
My Dad kept complaining that I never took pictures of him. So there.
"What are you thankful for, Bethany?"
My father's voice dragged me out of the world of pixels and html and back into the real one. I blinked for a moment, looking at the blue screen. I hate when I'm asked questions like this. Like it's a cue for me to wax rapsodic about how much I love my family and my friends and how grateful I am that I go to a good school, have a nice apartment and a good job. I have inherited a great many things from my father. One of them was the complete inability to get publicly mushy about these sort of things.
"I don't know....you know," I fumbled feebly, hoping the implication of love and thankfulness was enough. I turned back to the computer and hope he'd drop it.
"So you're not thankful for anything?" he said in a half-teasing voice.
"Yeeeeesh," I exhaled through my teeth.
My Dad and I spent Wednesday night building stretchers for my painting class. I showed him the plans that Chuck had drawn for me in the back of my journal, and we went to Lowe's to get 4x1s, plywood and quarter rounds. My father regarded the wood critically, muttering something about "damn new growth wood", and selected several pieces that weren't warped or full of knots. We took the wood down to the cold basement and, under the harsh fluorescent light, I carefully measured out the wood, and then he took it up to the garage to be cut. It went like many other projects my Dad and I have ever done. He's gruff and no-nonsense, and I usually step back let his expertise do the work, for better or worse.
I drove back and forth from Philly to Lebanon too many times in the past few days. I felt like I was stuck in a car most of the holiday, the dreaminess of the dark, endless road before me and the sounds of Chroma Key wafting through the car. I felt displaced, caught between two places, always in transit, and always not fully belonging to one place or the other. For the first time in my life, Lebanon was not home. I was not coming home for Thanksgiving. I was leaving home in Philadelphia to go to Lebanon, which was not home. How strange.
I felt like a guest in my own house. My room is depressingly empty, filled with only a dresser, bookcase and all the other crap my mother dumped in there because she couldn't find anywhere else to put it. I have to bring a change of clothes, my toothbrush, my deodorant. There aren't spares. There is no me left in this house.
All of me has been transported to my little one bedroom apartment in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is my home. It's not just where I go to school now, it's where I live. When people ask me where I'm from, I say "Philadelphia." My life here is so wonderful and such a blessing. I may bitch, I may complain about the annoying minutia of my life, but I am so happy here. Happier than I ever was in Lebanon.
"...and no, I'm not nude in the painting."
"No big deal, I wasn't about to ask. You know, I did some stuff nude when I was your age." I could tell she was trying to be flippant about it.
"Really?" I searched my memory of my mother's work from college. I couldn't come up with any nudes she had ever done, I'm sure I would've remembered them.
"You know...the ones Dad took of me. They were in the yearbook for that year."
Of course. I remembered looking at them many times, the photos taken by my father. I remember wondering if the woman in the photos was my mother, because it wasn't readily apparent from just looking at them. I laughed lightly into the phone.
"You know, my mother and I were never able to talk about this stuff." I could hear the smile in her voice.
Those who know me well know I tend to regard my life in terms of absolutes. Life is wonderful and blissful, or dark and full of despair. But I'm realizing more and more that things don't work that way: life is not all bad, life is not all good. People are not all bad, people are not all good. They are a dizzying mix of feelings and emotions that you have learn to accept and learn to love. It's not easy, but the effort's well worth it.
One Year Ago:
all writings, (c) 1999-2000, BRR