Sunday, April 18, 2010

st joe

My dad took a lot of pictures of us. An accomplished amateur photographer, he had a dark room down in the basement that I have written about before on this blog, and he often had camera in hand. I have boxes of slightly curled, shiny pictures of all different sizes that were produced in the Hayes Photolab, a name he stamped on the back of them before distributing to friends and family. There are hundreds of them. I remember putting them on the photo dryer, a large, two-sided contraption with flat surfaces upon which the wet photos were laid. Then, a canvas cover was pulled tightly over them. You rotated the machine and carefully removed the images when they dried. They always wound up curly on the edges. This was the work of the "dry man", as my dad called it, and was not as important as the work of the "wet man", which you had to graduate to: actually developing the prints in the chemicals and then throwing them on the "bath" was the part I loved most. I also loved running the finished prints upstairs to show my mother, who was usually in her chair, dog on lap, with a mystery novel of some sort. She would carefully put the bookmark in, close the book and look at each picture as I chattered about all that went into their creation. She must have looked at thousands of pictures during my childhood, and yet, if she was bored, she never showed it.
We are leaning against our '58 Ford station wagon that was two-toned, red and white. I named her Beauty Glamour on the day my dad drove her home and adored that car over all others we ever owned ( a considerable number, in that my dad was a confirmed car officianado and his best friend Lee was a Ford dealer). Beauty Glamour had red leather seats, and I liked to think that my dad picked that car out for me, because he used to say I was "especially made for red."

It might be early spring, like it is now, the sun warm and intoxicating on our faces, our little jackets, no doubt carefully picked out my our mother, buttoned against the still-cold winds that blow through Michigan at will. It is morning, because my braids are still neat and tidy, as my mother braided them, one and then the other, sitting on the bar stool, cigarette in ash tray, mug of coffee with cream, lipstick print on the edge in cherry red. My sister is carrying her Tiger and, as is so often the case, looks delighted to see my dad and his camera. My brother scrunches his face as if stifling a giggle. Maybe my dad said something silly or irreverant ("Say shit!") to get us to laugh. We are happy kids, well-loved, and it is spring in the sun.