“It feels like half the world has gone away, doesn’t it?” asked a fellow twin parent I keep bumping into.
He was referring to my outing with just one twin, the other one out with his dad, swapping from the day before.
“Yes”, I replied, stunned. “It does.”
Calmer and finally able to focus on the child in front of me: today, the one pulling the comic faces but in a very subtle way, so that you had to know him to know he was joking; yesterday, the one riding his scooter down a hill fast, wearing a big boy skateboarder helmet paired with sweet dragon puppet mittens from H&M. A British-looking guy pushing a pram with his wife flashed a warm smile and gave my kid the thumbs up when he passed.
The stories kids this age tell, at almost four, are amazing. Their vocabulary is as impressive as their memory.
One day, a short while ago, something odd happened. No one knew what was going to happen.
On a planet, from within the ground, came a monster. And there was a boy with a backpack to protect him in case the monster tried to bite him.
But they became friends and saw each other every day. The boy realised the monster just wanted to learn how to play. The end.
Oh, I said. That’s… quite a story! Did you hear it at daycare or make it up yourself?
It’s from a commercial, Mum.
A few days ago, I stole a rare moment of me-time and walked downtown to visit Vivian Maier’s photo exhibition. And I was the only customer there. No one else but me! It felt like going to see Picasso and being the only one who showed up – her exhibition had been the museum’s most popular one ever, just before Covid hit.
Part of me couldn’t believe my luck, and the other part wondered if the apocalypse had started without me. Indeed, seeing the very exhibition that was on the top of my list and it happening to be in the middle of a pandemic felt odd. The fact that our government was planning curfew added to my feeling of having found a glitch in the system.
This shouldn’t be possible, not right now. Art in a pandemic? Enjoying yourself, forgetting for a moment about the present. Vivian’s photos transferred me to Chicago and New York in the late fifties and early sixties, and they were irresistible. The characters she had spotted and immortalized in her shots, the funny details, it all felt so upbeat.
Aghast, I looked at crowds and dirty hands, and it felt like another planet. I wondered about the people in her shots: the grown-ups were most certainly dead, and the children possibly alive, enjoying happy retirement after a childhood in fashion so different than today’s.
Vivian’s vast collection of film was discovered after her death and I wonder if she would be pleased with her late fame, or perhaps feel violated? Nobody asked for her permission before they made public all the views her eyes had seen, her mind had sought. Just like most of the people in her shots didn’t know they would end up in an exhibition. Nevertheless, I’m on the winning side, having had the chance to enjoy these vivid moments of street life.
The photos in my post have nothing to do with Vivian, or my kids, or commercials that sound like stories. I just haven’t published them yet and thought I might as well use them. The first and last ones are from last summer, moody clouds and all. The middle one is a winter shot, in case our seasons seem unrecognizable from these limited views.