|Awesome parents via DiscoveryNews|
Because I could talk about this for days, I am going to judiciously pick only two: a feeling that's important to me, and a thing I love doing.
From my mother
|From The Tailor of Gloucester|
image via this cool essay on aestheticrealism.net
Then, too, on a totally different note, I inherited my mother's love of critique and analysis. I don't mean being critical - I mean the finding of a special kind of satisfaction and pleasure in examining the reasons something works the way it does, and then articulating it, usually in writing but sometimes also in conversation. Especially this is true for writing, and for me examination of a piece of art comes a close second, but it also comes in when taking a look at emotions and the reasons people feel or behave the way they do. I also don't mean a dispassionate, cold analysis: both my mother and I are advocates for a way of looking (especially in literary criticism) that takes into account who we are, instead of pretending that our analysis is somehow "objective" (as if any critical examination of something could be free from the subjective view of the person examining! Even the desire to see something as empirically true is, itself, a form of perspective. I would love to argue with you about this.) Both of us love writing analytical essays for the moment in which the mind makes a kind of leap of association, suddenly seeing through into the hidden connections between things, and then the sensation of being able to express that connection eloquently, drawing it into the light where before it was invisible, only felt. There is, for both of us, a delight in this: a sense of discovery and almost wonder at suddenly seeing. (She has a fascinating essay about this in this book.)
From my father:
I share a kind of dream vocabulary with my father, a feeling of mystical cities and alchemical diagrams and the potential of strange adventures on rainy nights, a love of storytelling and wandering, of sudden dance and lights in the darkness. I've written about this feeling, which he tends to call the numinal, in some detail, but less about the deep way I share it with my father: all the long walks in the tiny jeweled streets of the Berkeley hills, the late-night bookstore trips, the discussions of memory and music and Henry Miller and the great books and loneliness and longing, the Friday nights lighting the candles together, the small weird gifts, old dictionaries, radio shows, they've all aggregated into a kind of kaleidoscope of feeling. Each little gem in the glass window of the kaleidoscope is one of these strange, beautiful, resonant things I've shared with my father, and I see the whole world through its shifting patterns of yearning, candlelight, rainstorm. And here's a piece of music he gave me, which gives me yes that feeling when I listen to it:
And here is another way of expressing the ways our minds seem to work, in the form of the bizarre and marvelous Betty Boop cartoon Snow White, which features Cab Calloway rotoscoped into the form of Koko the Clown singing "St James Infirmary Blues" against a backdrop of stalactites that look like the world's most lunatic skeletons:
Forget what you think you know about Betty Boop - this is a gem of weirdness and delight. (The actual Youtube page for this video has some neat info about the cartoon, check it out!)
As far as things I love, well, my dad's given me plenty, but my total exultant delirium about the awesomeness that is food is the one that comes most immediately to mind. This is because food accompanied all the most fun things we ever did: from packing charcoal and fresh steaks up to the backpack-only campgrounds in Point Reyes to morning buns and Peet's coffee to sustain us on our wandering through the backwoods of Berkeley to Friday night dinners, a special evening of feasting in our house every week, my parents discovered early on that I could be satisfied for hours (maybe days) by a good snack, and my father proceeded to act accordingly. He taught me to cook, and we had dinner as a family almost every night the whole time I was growing up - a time for raucous conversation, serious discussion, and the noshing of unobtrusively healthy and delicious food that ranged from Moroccan couscous to homemade sushi.
|My father and my boyfriend arm wrestling to see who gets |
the last piece of brie. I am actually not kidding about this.
But there's also a gift that both my parents gave me, which might be most important of all: the two of them have very unconventional lives, not to prove a point, but just because it didn't occur to them that they needed to do things like other people. It wasn't until I was in high school that I realized that other people's parents worked 9-5 jobs and didn't spend hours talking to their kids about baby owls or chaos theory. I don't remember being told at any point that I could do anything I set my mind to, or to dream big, or anything like that; it was simply a given that I'd be supported in pursuing whatever weird and wonderful endeavors I thought sounded nifty, and if I needed help all I had to do was ask. Well, friends, here I am, taking the long road to building a mildly impossible museum. And they think that's just peachy, and for that I will be eternally grateful.