As you already know, summer camp was great, but the drive up to summer camp was wonderful in its own way, too. It started with a special little lunch stop with Kellie and Corinne. Corinne and Kellie were two of the first "virtual friends" I ever met in real life . I initially got to know them through an on-line book club and their blogs. I always admired their comments, their thoughtful observations, and their book suggestions, but when my dad suddenly took a turn for the worse in Baltimore, we found ourselves frantically driving up the East Coast to be with my family and in a desperate moment I reached out to them. Without a second thought they offered to watch my kids during that first frenzied day when we were trying to figure out what was happening with my dad's situation. And on top of all that sadness and confusion, they somehow discovered that it was my birthday and surprised me with some tasty French pastries. They will forever be lodged in my memory of that roller coaster of a day with their offerings of friendship and support. It's strange to feel connected to friends you have only met twice in real life, but I do and I hope that those bonds of friendship will continue to grow now that we are in closer proximity.
After lunch I got back in the car and continued to head north to Pennsylvania. I love road trips and sometimes I especially love road trips by myself. This was one of those times. I took backroads. I meandered and stopped when I wanted to. I pulled over to take pictures. I caught up on Moth podcasts. I ate junk food. And I slowly made my way to Longwood Gardens which was spectatular on a quiet, crisp September afternoon.
The Gardens are beautiful with their formal gardens and charming forest tree houses, but I spent the majority of my time walking through the meadow area. It was vibrating with life and color; bright yellows and purples, butterflies, bees, enormous dragonflies and a very interesting art installation by Bruce Munro. I would love to have seen those bottles lit up at a night along with the other pieces that were scattered throughout the gardens, but I had to get back on the road to make it to Doylestown for summer camp.
September 23, 2012
Summer is now officially over and sadly, so is summer camp. My mind is spinning with all of the information that I am still trying to absorb and process. My fingers are itching to get to work on my homework. My body is detoxing from all of the chocolate I consumed. And my spirits are high thanks to the camaraderie and new friendships.
It was so much better than my miserable week at 4-H camp as a kid.
Wendy and Tyler rock. Their kids are amazing. And I am so glad I went.
September 20, 2012
I have only been to New York City a few times in my life and each time it was with my Dad. The first time that I remember going to the Big Apple was as a kid for a family trip, which in our family meant we hit the art museums hard and we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. We slept on the floor of a very nice woman, who actually turns out to be a very impressive woman. We rode the subway and it seemed dark and gritty. I only remember slices and slivers of that trip.
The second time I ventured to the city was twenty one years ago during my freshman year at college. My Dad flew up from Louisiana, my best friend flew up from North Carolina where she was going to school, and I flew up from Virginia. We all met up in New York for a fast and furious weekend. The gallery my dad belonged to in New Orleans was opening up a gallery space in New York. It was a fun night. For that trip, we slept on the floor of our friends' small apartment and we did a lot of walking.
And last week I snuck up to New York City to meet my mom and my sister for a special opening event. My dad wasn't physically with us, but his work and his spirit certainly were. In the years prior to his death, my father (Elemore Morgan, Jr.) was fortunate to be one of four artists selected by the Joan Mitchell Foundation to participate in a very unique and generous program to assist established artists with the overwhelming and arduous task of archiving, organizing, and preserving multiple generations of their work. I can't tell you what an amazing opportunity this was for my father and my family. It has truly made things happen that never would have been possible without their guidance and financial assistance.
In addition to all of the help with the archival process, the Joan Mitchell Foundation also awarded my father a grant that made one of his life long dreams a reality in his final year of life. My father was a painter who spent the majority of his time in the rice fields of south west Louisiana. He would load up his beloved 1975 Dodge plumber's truck, search out the perfect spot, slather on sunscreen, set up his easle, load it up with a piece of shaped masonite, smudge acrylic paints on large white metal trays, and start to paint what he saw in the fields and in the skies. He loved those prairie horizons.
However, he also loved the energy and life of city views. And in August 2007 at the age of 75, my father spent a month painting in New York City. I loved hearing from him during that month of painting. He was fired up by the experience of painting city horizons and living in Brooklyn. The pieces that emerged from that intense month vibrate with colors and movements and energy. They are truly his own unique view of a city that entranced him with her layers. My favorite and the largest piece from that time in New York is currently on exhibit here. And it is paired with another city view that my father loved: New Orleans.
So last week I climbed on a bus and headed up to New York City. Another trip to the city that was shaped by my Dad, centered on art, involved sleeping in tight quarters (actually a very fun way to bunk with my mom at The Jane) and included a lovely sunset walk (not on the Brooklyn Bridge but on the fabulous High Line). When I first entered the gallery space I felt myself choke up a bit. Seeing those beautiful paintings of my dad and also realizing that this was the first opening of his I had attended in which he would not be present. But before I could get too caught up in that sad realization, I was quickly caught up in an unexpected joy. We found ourselves being approached by former students of my dad's who are now transplanted to New York, old friends we hadn't seen in many years, and new friends.
As a child of two artists, a large part of my childhood involved attending openings. My sisters didn't really enjoy them, but I did. I liked getting dressed up. I liked the fancy little plastic cups and the bright gallery lights. I liked getting to stay up late and visiting with adults since it made me feel more grown up. But to be honest, I hadn't really been expecting to enjoy this opening all that much. I was primarily focused on seeing my Dad's work displayed in a public space (both pieces are so large that they can really only be appreciated in large spaces). And that's why I found myself surprisingly at ease and comforted by these friendly encounters. Laughing, sweating (it was a very warm evening and a very poor A.C. system) and savoring the stories of my dad as a beloved teacher and friend. Hearing those stories, sharing Louisiana roots, and making new connections in the middle of a gallery in New York City...those moments brought me closer to my Dad than I have felt in quite awhile. I wish he had been there, while at the same time realizing he really was there.
And that New York connection comes right back to today, September 11th. On September, 11th, 2001 we were waking up on the West Coast to the horrors unfolding in New York City. Without a second thought, I picked up the phone and called my Dad. Together we watched that second tower fall on little tv screens many miles apart and no where near New York City. Helpless, scared, and shocked, all I wanted to hear was my Dad's voice. I still crave that, but the recent trip to NYC also has me realizing again that his voice is still very alive and not just in his paintings or in my memories of him, but also in the people that knew him and I am so grateful for that.
It's funny that my moments in New York City have been so brief, so few, and so far between. I've never done any of the typical tourists things. I haven't been to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. I've never seen a Broadway show or eaten in a NY deli or ice-skated at Rockefeller Plaza. Now that we are just a few hours away, I know that I'll get to see and do those things, but thanks to my dad I have an appreciation and an affection for the city that is sculpted by his view of it. And I am anxious to return again soon.
If you are in New York during the month of September:
Creating a Living Legacy Exhibit
September 4-Sept.29th, 2012
CUE Art Foundation
511 W. 25th Street
New York, NY 10001
Thank you for all of the recent comments. They have been so thoughtful and supportive. And as Aimee said, our boy has moxie and we are proud of that. He's a resilient, funny, and determined guy and the mantra around here has been "it will get better, it will get better, it will get better". And slowly it is. Soccer season has started so that is good thing in our family. Sunday school started up this past weekend and that was also a good thing since we really enjoy the diverse, welcoming synagogue that we have joined. Both of the kids dragged their heels all the way there on Sunday and I have to admit I also felt a little nervous for them as they ventured into a whole new group of kids and teachers. But happily, they both met some new friends and so did we.
Actually, in many ways this has been one of the easiest moves for me. I almost feel guilty about that when I see how hard it is for my kids. But unlike with previous moves, I already have friends and family in the area. I don't feel that frantic drive to meet new friends as I did with past transitions. We have great neighbors and I have been walking several mornings a week with one of my neighbors. Some of our very favorite friends in the whole, wide world recently moved to the area. I have found a yoga studio within walking distance that I like. I am already involved in several volunteer situations. And I have a long and growing list of things I want to see and do in the area. The hardest part about growing new roots with this move has been seeing the impact it is having on Noah and Camille.
Which is exactly why I plan on re-reading one of my favorite parenting books: The Blessings of a Skinned Knee. I need a re-fresher to carry me into this stage of parenting and this time of major transition. When I was bogged down by sleep deprivation and the challenges of baby/toddler hood, I used to jealously watch my friends with older kids and envy their stage of parenting. But now that I am in the midst of raising two school age children, I realize that this stage has its own unique challenges with plenty of skinned knees and bruised hearts.
But with each day that passes, things are getting a bit easier. Friendships with classmates are starting to grow, school is becoming more familiar, and roots are slowly starting to form. Roots are such tender, delicate little things and yet they form a foundation unlike anything else in this world. I feel like we need to hang a little sign by our doorbell: "Be Gentle, Rooting In Process". Along the same lines as "Quiet, Baby is Sleeping", but at this stage in our lives it carries just as much weight and significance as the blessing of sleep did in those early days of our family.
September 6, 2012
Both of the kids are still struggling to adjust to school and the daunting task of making new friends. The bully issue for Noah was nipped in the bud last week, but he revealed tonight at dinner that his desire to protect other kids from bullying is now becoming pretty intense and physical. Today he shoved a much bigger kid to protect a classmate who has been the target of some recent bullying. That revelation led to a long night of discussions with Noah and later without him. We admire his desire to protect other kids, especially those with special needs, but we don't want it become a physical or all-consuming task.
It is heartbreaking to see him grappling with all of this. He is truly stunned and disappointed to see how cruel kids can be to each other. He's also feeling a bit uneasy about this niggling realization that adults can't always keep everyone safe every second of the day. That's not the lesson we wanted him to bring home in his first few days of school, but there it is. Weighing heavy on all of us. Trying to navigate the weedy territory of being the new kid, trying to build friendships, trying to find his way, while also fighting off bullies. That's a heavy load to carry...much heavier than any homework assignment or special school project. And there's no way around it. This just sucks.