Friday, November 06, 2009

On Remembering a Wedding Photo of My Parents

My father doesn’t really do facial hair. But there he is in his wedding photo with a mustache. A nice one, too, the color of September though it was only June, fading gold, a final bronze punctuation mark. He is wearing a white tuxedo, and I don’t have the picture in front of me but I swear there are ruffles in there somewhere. Maybe on my mom’s wrists. They, the two of them, look like a perfect match. Two eyes, two ears, one nose each. Hair like fine wool. I never had hair like that.

She is thin. Arms bowing in blithe symmetry, hands meeting at the navel clasping a shock of white roses. She glints like a piece of quartz. She is absolutely real right then—this picture more de facto, more present than my most recent memory of her. Her face is the face under her face. A face I’ve never seen.

These are not my parents, of course. They are protagonists in the story of me. They eat coconut ice cream and lie about for hours and read novels. They motor around in old cars and hike mountains and wash each other’s hair and cook together, tossing ingredients across the kitchen, leaving the dishes until morning. They play frisbee, argue about politics, curse loudly and laugh louder. They stop to help strangers on the side of the road. They have dirt under their fingernails but they smell clean and raw like limes or fields of alfalfa. They know people. They have friends in Mexico and Canada. Sometimes people will visit and stay for weeks. My parents just smile and pull fresh linens out of the closet in the hall. Downstairs there is an open window where a cool breeze hurries in and tangos past the pot belly stove, up the stairs to the loft where they sleep gracefully on a mattress on a worn oak floor.

They are professionals, actors or models, posing for pictures while my real parents are getting dressed in the bathroom. My mom is sweating, her make-up is starting to cake up and she is dabbing her face with toilet paper. My dad is in his undershirt, bent over the sink with a safety razor, scratching at the hair under his nose, shaving off that mustache at the last possible moment, right before the music begins to play and the guests file in and the world is born and practice is over.


Emily said...

I love this:
a final bronze punctuation mark

Two eyes, two ears, one nose each

Her face is the face under her face. A face I’ve never seen.

3rd paragraph I was like, "what? I'm so confused, but I would like these these people, I'm sure, even though I'm pretty sure I don't know them."

4th paragraph "They are professionals, actors or models, posing for pictures while my real parents are getting dressed in the bathroom," and I took a breath of relief. Even though I like the people in paragraph 3, I love the people in paragraph much more than I could love the people in paragraph 3.


Ming said...

Do my eyes deceive me? Did I really just read a blog post on Plickog? I'm still in shock. LOVE that you posted. I miss your writing. Give me more more more. I'm greedy like that :)

Love it.

Dave said...


What an evocative tribute. It made me want to read novels (by you?), while laying in hay and my lovely wife's shoulder nook.

I gotta agree with Emily, but add something, too. I love 'em all--airy youth and unhairy responsibility, and union, and the perfectly placed "ands" of your final sentence.

Well done. I'll look forward to your Tuesday and Friday posts!

By the way, you're staring today on my worldwideweblog!

DC Diva said...

Wahoo! I love it when Joe blogs. I'm w/ Ming: more, more, more!

Robin said...

I love when you do your semi annual post! It's almost as good as conference...but more entertaining.

Sally said...

Beautiful! It was lovely to read, so lovely in fact that I read it twice. And I might come back for it again tomorrow.

Les said...

I know how the last lines of these things are so difficult and so important and so easy to get wrong. And you go on and slay it like that.

So good. Thanks Joe.

Harley King said...

Yours are the only posts I read twice.

Melissa said...

I want more.


Kristen said...

It is truly rude that you post so infrequently!

I love your writing. Write more. Or share what you write - more.


Rain King said...

This is awesome. Truly.