Thursday, April 26, 2012

Here Comes The Son
I had an emotional fart.
It happens.
Sometimes when you hold it in so tightly, your butt cheeks begin to quiver, and it just slips out.

I called my mom last night, just to say "hi", but really, the subtext was,
"Hi, I'm calling to complain... so don't judge me, and just listen... and then let's round it off with an everything's-going-to-be-fine-son... I'm proud of you. You can do it. I love you."

At 37 years old, I still call my mother when I'm frustrated, weak and confused.
I never considered myself a mama's boy -- maybe when I was a kid... but only until I was about 16 years old when I decided I needed to be more independent.
How cliche.
Let the teenage angst begin.

I said to mother last night that nobody helps me.
Like I said, I had an emotional fart.
It slipped out.
Of course, what I said is not true. 
I've gotten a great deal of help; much support from family and friends and colleagues and teachers, but I was referring specifically to money. 

It takes a lot to run a business, not only the energy to persist and to move forward, but financially it costs money. I've flirted with the idea of not having a studio, I've thought about ways I could cut my expenses. I understand all of this, but I've chosen to not 
Cut back.
I wonder sometimes if I'm being irresponsible, but then I think about the marks that I've set for myself and what's needed to achieve those goals. Of course, I'm being mindful of my expenses, and can afford to pay the bills in front of me, but it always feels very difficult when I have to spend to grow my business. 
This circular movement of money that comes in, goes right back out. 
My business keeps my art going.
I can't believe that I'm talking like this now.
I never used to.
Before it was only about drawing and painting and making things, and although I still
and Paint
and Make Things
I think about how sucky it would be if one day I'd no longer be able to
and Paint
and Make Things.

My mother, like many good mothers, recognizes an emotional fart when she hears one, and she stays put until it diffuses into thin air. 
I don't know if the intention of my post was talk about money, flatulence, or my mother, but I'd like for it to be the latter of the three since she's a pretty cool person. 
It's a bit early for Mother's Day, but nonetheless, here's a post about her that I wrote a year ago.

When I was young I would stare into the mirror at myself and imagine what I would look like when I grew up. I was a chubby kid with a black bowl cut and soft effeminate features. My ear lobes were fleshy and hung down away from the sides of my face, like pieces of gum stuck to the edge of a desk.
“It was lucky,” my aunt would say.
My ear lobes were a sign of luck.
I looked at the roundness of my face and judged it against the faces of the actors who I saw on television who had light skin with slim and chiseled features, deep set eyes shielded beneath a prominent brow; their rectangular faces framed by soft wavy brown hair. I tugged at certain parts of my face, and sucked in other areas to try to find these qualities within myself.
"Not so lucky at all," I thought.
My lips were too pink, my cheeks too portly, my eyes too bulging and creased at the corners. I looked down at my belly which stuck out past the waistline of my pants, and then I pulled  my shoulders back and stretched the fabric up over this soft hump of mine.
Sometimes very early in the mornings, while the rest of the world was still asleep, I would climb up the stairs to meet my mother outside of the bathroom. It was barely 5:30am, the time when she would awake to get ready for work. She stood with her back to me, arms in the air, flicking her wrists about her head, teasing and scraping down and then up against the locks of her black hair that grew fuller and softer with each wrist snap. I don’t remember exactly what we spoke about, except that I was curious and mesmerized by her actions.

My mother is a simple woman. To some this may sound insulting - who would want to be described as simple? To be simple means being obvious, plain, and boring. There is so much complexity within the world that we live in; so many choices and options available to advise the ways for us to live, the foods we eat, the way that we look, and the opinions we should have. We can become thin if we believe that we’re too thick and we can look strong, and even feel stronger, if we’re too skinny and weak.
We can become anyone.
So how could anyone be described as simple?
And how dare I use this word to describe somebody, especially my mother?

I grew up in a very modest home, with modest parents, who raised modest children. When we moved to Canada all we had was each other, the help of our extended family who sponsored us to live there, and the clothing on our back and whatever money we were permitted to carry away with us. My entire family was born in Mozambique, Africa: my parents, myself, and my older brother and sister. We left in the mid 1970s because the country was on the brink of civil war. For centuries, Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, but in 1976 the country gained back its independence. News spread via word of mouth that the government was subverted, which inspired a mass exodus of individuals who moved to Portugal and other parts of the world, and civil war ensued until the 90's. My family was one of the fortunate ones who were able to leave the country traveling to Lisbon, and then to Toronto through the sponsorship of my aunt and uncle. But this was all at a cost. My parents’ banks accounts were frozen, their home terrorized by the police, and so whatever they could take out of the country with them, they could carry in their hands within a limited number of suitcases, and on their backs.

In photos, my mother wears thick-framed Nana Muskouri glasses to match her dark hair, cut short, which tapers towards a fine and delicate neck. She dresses in a sixties style American bandstand shift that falls so softly against her, accentuating the slimness of her shoulders, and the length and leanness of her body in a self-effacing way. Sometimes she is standing in front of a wall of flowers, and other times in a random city setting, with suggestions of a building behind her, or off to the side. I imagine it’s my father who is taking the photos of her. There’s a kind of care about how the picture is delicately composed as if it’s been taken by someone who loves her dearly, who wants to show the rest of the world how beautiful she is.  There is no indication of impending war; there are no signs of trouble. These photos lay bare a playful side of my parents’ youth. My mother doesn’t talk much about her past very much. For as long as I have known her she has never remembered out loud, nor has she fondly dreamt to us about any past moments in her life when memories can blur softly into the next, and then the next, and then the next again.

I would sometimes crawl into the bathroom near my mother’s feet and sit beside the box of coloured pencils and blushes and lipsticks that rested on the edge of the open cupboard underneath the sink, where she kept her makeup. I examined each one, attentive to their opalescent brilliance mottled against each other on the floor and insides of this box like romantic graffiti; the coloured pencil tips mixing together to create new colours and new qualities about them.  Sometimes I sharpened these pencils, and studied the iridescent shavings that curled out from the sharpener’s blade and into my hands leaving entrails of colours along the edges of my fingers. My mother carefully lined her eyes with these pencils and I gazed, and wondered about whether it hurt her to do this or not.

This lasted for about forty-five minutes or so, and in my mind, it was mother putting on her lipstick that marked the end of this ritual. She stood like a movie star bathed in Edward Hopper lighting, her hair brushed into soft curls that kissed the tops of her shoulders, her cheeks slightly blushed, wearing an almost sheer grey blouse marked with pretty floral shapes of colour, tapered and tucked neatly into a narrow navy skirt, which grazed just above her knees.  She left the house every morning going to a job that required her to enter numbers into a computer repeatedly; a task that sounded deadening to me, and I wonder if it was the same to her as well. My mother did this for over forty years, and I’m curious now, about whether her morning transformation ritual was actually a glimpse into her thoughts, or even a means to take her, if only for a few minutes, out of a world of expected modesty and into a place of fantasy. 

*The illustration above was for Delta Sky Magazine, entitled, "Here Comes The Son." 

1 comment:

joe navas said...

I've long been a fan of your wondrous visual art, but this was the first time I've ever read your writing. It's so representative of your style. Really beautifully done. Thanks for it.