I remember driving my dad nuts in the way only I could. He’d smirk, sigh and laugh. We’ve been together 35 years and I can still do it. But this memory was long ago, we were both younger and this is where I’m supposed to add that my mom who was watching us the whole time hasn’t aged a day since then. She sat there just glad I wasn’t badgering her with my endless bombardment of questions. Robin just sighed. We were in a restaurant in Chinatown had probably finished dinner and it had been awhile since I saw those eyes and I still wanted my father to tell me the true magic behind it and I wasn’t giving up until I heard an explanation that matched my childhood imagination.
Every year for Christmas my mother would take me and Robin to my Dad’s office. My older brothers were off doing older brother things so most if my memories are just the 4 of us. We’d get there and play with the file folders and rolling shelves and when the whistle blew (or dad was afraid we were about to reorganize his filing system) we would walk to see the big tree.
I doubt I have to explain anything about the Rockefeller Christmas tree or St Patrick’s Cathedral or Macy’s windows or anything else about the splendor and majesty that is NYC at Christmas. We’d always see the tree, the church, and the windows, buy a steaming hot pretzel and then jump on the subway to Chinatown for real NYC Chinese food. Rockefeller Center is packed every night and every day with people gazing at the big beautiful tree bursting with color and the skaters in the rink below it. My family and I navigated our way thorough the crowds towards the tree. After a while of taking it all in my father lead us into the Rockefeller building itself, away from the crowds outside. The lobby was quiet and empty. He directed us to look upwards to the ceiling of the lobby, where a fantastic mural had been painted. The figure in the center of it all had a menacing glare in his eyes and he stared back at us hard. My father took us to a different spot in the lobby and miraculously the dark mean eyes seemed to follow us. We found another spot and was still being watched. My dad explained that those eyes would follow us all over the lobby and of course he was right.
I remembered being amazed by what he shared with us that night and it was a similar amazement that I felt today looking back up at that same mural. That building is the flagship NYC property of the company I now work for and I paused on my way to my desk this morning and looked up. Outside the lobby the tree was already up, encased in scaffolding, getting ready for its big debut.
I’ve been thinking about my next blog post for a few days and I’ve been at a loss. I recently took some photos which I am extremely proud of. I set up my strobes and turned the living room into my studio. The result was outstanding. The lighting was perfect and the subject was an exquisite piece of pure beauty. She sat the showing me not only how proud and grand she still was but that age and time had made her delicate and in need of a loving touch.
Through my lens I poured over every detail of my Grandfather’s camera. I studied it all. Since them I’ve begun the process of learning where to get film for it, how to develop it and equally important – how to work it. The whole time, I’ve been rendered speechless by the fact that my mother gave it to me.
I was called an ungrateful bastard the other day, which wasn’t the first time in my life and since I probably am one, I’m sure it won’t be the last. Coupling that with Charlene bringing the amazing blog of Christina and her list of gratitude to my attention and I was brought back to that December night and my father sharing this moment with us and all of which I have to grateful for…
Enjoy your holiday season … and don’t forgot to not only appreciate the tree, but whats in the lobby behind it… and be grateful for it all.
This was a weekend of gifts.
Saturday was clean out day. My parents and I are cleaning out and fixing up the basement of the house, getting a new drier, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc (To emphasize the work involved.) On Saturday morning, a dumpster was dropped in front of the house and by Saturday night, it was full. Dad served the cold beers all day, Mom took the kids out and I had a few great friends to help me accomplish the rest.
We worked through the day, and by the time we were done, my kids had returned and were finished with what they had to do in my apartment. A secret, of some sort, or at least that’s what I led them to believe. See, I turn 35 this week, and since I had my kids this weekend, we were celebrating. I got a crown to wear, pizza and beer, and some really cool presents, but the best part was that all the people I really love were there with me. Its all I really wanted for my birthday.
Sunday me and the boys headed out on a mission, we were in search of the ocean.
When Jackster and I crossed the GWB a few weeks ago, we watched the Hudson river float by, and I began to tell him about messages in bottles floating in the sea. His eyes turned big and he asked if we could do that. So Sunday morning he and I sat at the table and we wrote out notes, that gave his name, my email address, and the request to contact us when the note was found. We wrapped the bottles up in tape and drove off to Sands Point. The three of us stood on the beach and tossed the bottles we made into the current with the highest of hopes. Jack and James threw pebbles after them, and I watched them bob up and down in the waves until they had disappeared from view. I told Jack that I couldn’t see them anymore and he said “Awesome…” and went back to throwing rocks. Yeah, I know it’s a 50 50 chance they’ll ever be found, but hey, we can hope right?
We left the beach and explored the rest of the preserve – itself a gift from the original owners to the public to be enjoyed for the beauty it is. We found a nice quiet little spot on the side of a pond and the three of us played, pretended to fish and camp out. It was a beautiful gift, the gift of time alone with my boys.
I regrouped with my mom in the basement to survey the cleanup after I brought the boys back to their mother. My mom and I had already been to home depot to look at new lighting and a new dryer, and to be honest, I really just wanted to go relax. I was contemplating feigning a heart attack to get away from her when she finally said, “Here, you have this.” and handed me a dusty old metal box.In an instant, my heart stopped when I opened it. Inside was a precious gift, something I never expected to have, and something I’m still so childish about, that I have it sitting in the desk next to me, as if me being away from it would make it disappear again.
My grandfather’s camera.
It’s a Kodak Graflex and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen simply because I know he held it in his hands, his eye looked through it.
Then she said to me “He’d be so proud of your photos.” and I couldn’t think of a thing to say.
I never met James Killeen, but my whole life I’ve been told how much I’m like him. When I took up photography the deal was complete. He was a photographer, self taught, and more talented than I could ever hope to be. I used to sit with my Grandmother and make her tell me stories of the man in the self portrait with the fedora and the smoke curls circling around his head. When the time came, I named my first born son after him in the hopes that maybe he’d be able to capture some of the essence and spirit I had only heard about in all those family stories.
So the 65 year old camera sits here now, next to my Nikon D90.
Maybe they’re sharing stories. Maybe my D90 is telling it about the day we had and the Graflex is responding, “oh yeah, that’s nothing compared to the day’s we’re gonna have.”
Until I get the Graflex working, here’s some shots from today…