My dad died at a young age, when I was 18, so it’s hard to tell whether I was like him at the time the picture of him was taken. He was 33 at the time of the picture. My picture was recently taken; I’m 47.
He’s carrying a Roleiflex camera, a exposure meter and a leather case for the camera. I tried to copy this with my Nikon camera, a gps and my camera bag. We both share the love for gadgets. My father had a very good photo camera (Roleiflex) and had great pocket calculators (HP) that were different from the Texas Instruments everyone had at that time. I’m sure he would’ve had a Mac, if he would’ve lived in the times computers would become common. (Well at least my mom’s second computer, in the mid ’80 s, was a Mac) And he surely would’ve bought a gps, like the one around my neck in my photo.
My dad was a professor in physics at the university of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Although my parents would’ve liked me to become something like a physicist or a computer programmer, I studied applied linguistics and became a teacher (Dutch as a second language). Still there is a similarity since my father taught students at the university. And eventually, after having worked at several places, I am employed at the university of Nijmegen as well at the department of e-learning.
And last but not least, we both share the love for photography. My dad was a great amateur photographer who printed his own photo’s. My dad taught me the essentials and I’ve used his darkroom and camera’s for a long time.
We are the quiet ones.
This is my mother at 15 looking on as her sister waits to be called to walk down the aisle for the first time. At five, she was summoned from Chile to join her widowed mother in Washington DC where she had relocated to find work and escape the pious judgments afforded an irrepressibly intelligent and irresistibly tantalizing single woman. Upon her arrival, she didn’t speak for a year and when she did again, English was all she knew.
This is me, pregnant at 28 and mystified by the dress-up girly-girly games of my niece. On April 4, 1968, I was hospitalized with a grapefruit sized growth that had appeared over the short course of an afternoon nap. I was seventeen months old and had been admitted just as Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. My emergency became inconsequential as Washington was set on fire by rioters and intermittent tides of quiet carried tempest parents with injured children to beg admission at the locked and guarded doors of the hospital. With no time to diagnose, I was placed in isolation with promises and crossed fingers. Every four hours my mother, this woman that knew all too well the deafening language of silence, would be allowed, masked and robed, 20 minutes to hold me.
This is my son at 11, eyes riveted to the mirror that remembers the cutting of his waist length hair. There was no rioting, no death, no language barrier, no ocean voyages, universal grief, injustice or ethos that made him so. Yet, you can see it in the tender curve of his cheek, the forehead tilted to meet the unfolding reality of the moment, the perspicacious eyebrow preparing a succinct rejoinder if, and only if, it be necessary.
We are the quiet ones.