frown, don’t smile

I remember my mom dressing me up and taking this picture, making me wear the itchy wool skirt and bulky white tights, then telling me to frown instead of smile. It was in our dining room; I remember the wallpaper which looks like the patterns I see when I close my eyes and press on them too hard.

My mom was a “Carny” when she was a young woman; she played in the Palace of Legerdemain as the lady who gets burned up, the mermaid, the girl who is cut in half.  I was a child actor, mainly in dramatic theatrical performance; I “married up” into Vaudeville and toured with the Flying Karamazov Brothers and the New Old Time Chautauqua.  As she’s grown up in this world, my daughter has melded her dance and theater experience into aerial dance, where she now does trapeze, lyra, fabric and straps in aerial performance.  From my mom’s carnival dramatics, to my theater/vaudeville experience, to my daughter’s dance and circus arts, it feels like the generations are transforming performance from over-the-top sleight of hand, into down-to-earth drama and humor, emotional levity and now into literal levity, off the ground dancing on air.  It’s refreshing to see the growth over the generations from the carnival art of deceitful cleverness, to vaudeville’s humorous entertainment, to skilled graceful circus performance for beauty’s sake.

As a child, I was always told that I look “exactly like” my mother.  As an adult, the resemblance is uncanny (especially when looking at myself, horrified, in the mirror).  Physically in my daughter I can see my deep-set eyes and dimples in her face, but as her dad is Hispanic she is darker in hair and skin than I am; often when she was a child people couldn’t see that we were related at all.  She has lost a lot of curl and her hair has lightened up as she’s matured, so she’s looking more and more like me as she becomes a young woman.

My daughter and I are similar in our ability to intuit the heart of a situation, to throw ourselves totally into a project or relationship, and our ability to hold a grudge for an extensive period of time.

December 9, 2010


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