Friday, November 8, 2013


Jean Pinkowitz "Ben and Emily After Soccer at ACT Day Camp, Summer 1986"
The announcement of Launch Pad Gallery's show "family" in November, 2009

The sweet photo was handed out in my Friday writing class last week.  It was one of a batch of photos that June asked us to pick from.  The assignment was to write about the photo after viewing it, write anything about it that you wish.  The technique is called "Ekphrastic" writing and it is one that can be a huge challenge.  Here is the photo I selected and here's my interpretation.  Of course, it  is best to not know the title of the photo beforehand but, credit goes where credit is due.

It's Christmas Eve.  I am a very young child.  My brother is almost two years older than I.  We are doing what we do every Christmas Eve.  We live in a duplex house, our aunt, cousin and uncle live upstairs and we, down.  My father is a New York City policeman who works shifts year-round, holidays included.   We are upstairs, in my mother's sister's apartment and, along with her family and my grandparents, we sadly say good bye to Daddy. After a series of kisses and hugs, he slips off into the early evening.  Poor Daddy, he always has to work the second shift on Christmas Eve.  He never gets to stay with us.  He always has to miss out on seeing Santa.  He's sad and so are we.  All the adults make sure that he is sent off with fanfare and a host of regrets as he has to leave  us on the one night of the year that he would most like to be present.  Mommy kisses him goodbye at the door and watches as he makes his way down the stairs.

The scents of that evening, the aromas of Christmas Eve dinner, pasta, fish and traditional baked goods, course through my memory.  The air of anticipation.  I can almost transport myself back in time to one of those eves and I see the glow of candlelight in a living room of greens and golds. I can hear Aunt Millie playing carols on the piano as we sing along.  I can feel my grandmother's soft arms wrapped around me, sitting in her warm lap.  My cheeks are rosy red and my eyes reflect the bubble lights of the huge Christmas tree.  A miniature train set circles the tree, surrounding a group of tiny skaters on a pond that once was a mirror. My brother and our two boy cousins, dressed  in their robes and Christmas pajamas, roll playfully around the floor.  I sit quietly and watch them. I'm clad in a  blue and red plaid robe and my freshly washed hair is silky and golden colored.  The mothers are in the kitchen with Uncle Augie, leaving only grandparents and children alone in the livingroom and I hear hushed voices.  Whispers.  And then, a loud knock on the door, bells loudly jingling. My heart starts to race and my eyes widen further  The adults jump to their feet, run to the window and look out as the children remain in place, stunned by the excitement.  Santa has arrived, and once again, Uncle Charlie has just missed him by moments.

I cried and kicked and had to be held tightly.  My fear of Santa did not leave me for years.  But, I always managed to reach an arm out to grab my gift before returning to the sofa and the safety of Grandma's lap where I remained until Santa went back into the night shouting "ho, ho, ho, merrrrrry Chirstmas".  The routine was played out in much the same fashion as we progressed through our childhood with  Daddy's return home from "work" to a chorus of "you JUST missed Santa!!" Year after year, one by one we would catch on and the magic would be diminished by one child at a time.

 We have finally managed to fall asleep after the excitement of the evening has worn off.   This year, he, the oldest of the family's children has "caught on" but he won't let his secret out, not this year.  His little sister still believes in the magic and, together they drift off.   His dream is of sweet satisfaction, he has a tiny smirk on his lips, his secret is safe, at least until next year.  Her lips reveal a sweet smile as visions of sugarplums waltz by.  

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