This painting, Les Glaneuses, by Millet, hung on the living room wall in my grandparents' farmhouse. My grandma took turns rocking each of us (brother, sister and me). When it was my turn, I stared at this painting in a dreamlike state.
Over the years, I studied it. Les Glaneuses (The Gleaners) are watched by a man on a horse in the background and are bent over in the sun, picking up small grains and leftovers.
When I was in my teens and twenties, she sometimes pointed at the painting and said, "That is life. It is hard work."
When I was in my thirties, her advice became, "Wear short skirts, bright colors, and don't get married. Just have boyfriends. If you don't like one, you can get rid of him. This is your one life, honey."
Painting as metaphor for 50 years of life and surely the lives of many others.
Now it hangs in my home.
December 9, 2020
Diving into the past
After 60 years, Coca-Cola Co. is calling it quits for Tab soda. With that news, an image, a flavor, a scene, and a happy bittersweet feeling rush in. Did you feel it?
I have a memory of my mom sunbathing on the back porch slathered in Bain de Soleil, wearing a halter top and shorts, holding up a piece of cardboard covered with foil, and drinking a Tab soda.
Bain de Soleil for the St. Tropez tan, the iconic phrase from a commercial that my friends and I chanted, is not just an ad but a memory of smell, an orange gloss on skin, and a piece of summertime.
Whatever the scientific explanation is, I don't know and I don't care because it's more than that. Just an ad? Nope. It's the sensory experiences: the flavor, the sugar and saccharine rush, and remembering a song on the radio from that era, the time of year, the friend, and simple fun. It's Gen X, baby. It's us every day in every year and every decade. It's remembering who we were, how we identified, and how we invented our own way out of everything and were left to our own devices to do it, for better or worse. Look how far we've come.
A 10-month long pandemic and the effects on us inside and out have left my friends from that era and me sometimes diving into a memory so powerful, we have to share it.
Nowadays, ads and images appear and disappear so quickly they are forgotten. No chance to form a multi-decades long memory of a full blown sensory experience. Can we have it when taking a digital pic multiple times until it's a perfect shot? Will we look back and remember the feelings? Maybe we will. Maybe we'll adapt.
It's time to move on and make more memories. The rules: take your pick of memories but share it, keep making sacrifices and working hard, dive deep into your interests, don't take too much to heart, ignore a lot, turn up the music, and break rules in a way that takes us higher. There's more to come.
October 17, 2020
In the soundtrack of my life, this song conjures a memory so powerful, I can feel the feelings from that time. How does music do that? Every memory has a song, a time of year, a place and a movement. Some music played at home during a traumatic period in my middle school years is impossible for me to hear without crying. (I don't go out of my way to listen to it, ever.)
I love Black Pumas' "Fast Car" cover of Tracy Chapman's first hit. I am a sucker for any song with an acoustic strumming sound and an R&B feel. (Listen here.)
June 1988, Highway 15D in Sonora, Mexico between Nogales and Magdalena de Kino, Liz played her new cassette tape, and as we drove at dusk, this song came on. It tells the story of a woman in love with a man and with dreams of comfort and freedom for her life, chipped away piecemeal verse by verse along with her spirit. Her life is the reality of a no-good husband and children to care for, dreams be damned.
Liz, a friend of my mom's, was younger than I am now and has since passed away. I'd just finished school and hoped I'd find a romantic, adventurous job living in other countries and working for a more peaceful world. I thought I'd experience true love and family. Hearing this beautiful song, I was moved and full of questions, always questions. I think of Liz now and her example and I'm grateful.
We end up with ourselves, don't we? Everything that happens to us is a reflection in the mirror.