Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Lady Who Works At Noah's School

There is this really nice lady who works at Noah's school. She always greets me the same way. Hi Noah's Mom! She says with a huge smile. One thing I like about this lady is that she oozes  enthusiasm. I find this quality rather contagious.

I don't mind being called Noah's Mom. I'm cool with it. It's a little like being the parent to a celebrity. I imagine that Beyoncé's mom, Mrs. Knowles, might feel the way I do about it.

One day, I came into the school to sign Noah in and give her a note. He was late for school because the two of us were touring a high school. If you have an 8th grader in NYC, chances are you will be doing a lot of this between October and December. It's an understood thing.

The night before, the lady and I saw each other at Parent Teacher conferences. She was in charge of the sign up sheets to see the 8th grade teachers. This is not as easy as you might think. While most parents are relaxed about the time, a few are not. People can get very disgruntled about two things while waiting. One is about their position on the sign up sheet. Another is how long the other parents are taking talking to teachers.

It was easy for Jeremy and me to remain cheerful at Parent Teacher conferences. Noah is a stellar student.

The lady congratulated me about Noah being on the Principal's Honor Roll.  She also complimented me about Noah's behavior and overall demeanor. This makes me very happy as a parent. You want to think you are raising a nice boy.

The lady went on to say that she hopes I realize that God has been very good to me. He has blessed me many times over with Noah. Not everyone has blessings like this.

This gave me a brief pause. I don't know what I think about God. I'm not going to focus on what I believe or don't here. Let's just say that this is not a commonality between the lady and myself at this juncture.

But I decided to go with the thread of discussion she started anyway. Building on what the other person has said comes naturally to me. That is why I believe myself to be an excellent conversationalist.

So I tell the lady that indeed God has been extremely good to me. Noah is a true gift in every way. However, I chose that moment to also share that I believe that God really owes me one after what he put me through earlier. I told her that I felt that God owed me many more blessings after what happened with my son Jacob.

My oldest died from childhood cancer, I told her. He would be almost seventeen now.

Naturally, the lady was surprised. I was satisfied that she knew that I haven't been leading an exclusively charmed life.

Have you read the book of Job? She asks. I tell her no, and she tells me the Lord gives and also takes away. I then decide to get poetic. The Lord giveth and the lord taketh away, I say. I tell her about the man who worked at the hospital where Jacob was treated. He had lost a child many years earlier. He said this a lot.

I go on to tell her that because of what happened to Jacob, I never take my surviving children for granted. I am thankful for them every day. I feel I have a higher calling with them.

She asked me about Hannah. I told her that she is a 9th grader at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. Praise Jesus! She said. I nodded. I have to admit, I started getting into it. Like I said earlier, there is something pleasantly contagious about the lady.

I see that we understand one another very well, she said as I was leaving, and gave me a little hug.

I saw her again soon after that. Noah was late again because of a high school tour. Is he applying to Harvard yet? She asked me. He's got to get into high school first, I joked.

Is he ambitious? She asked. Indeed he is. Right now he's saying he wants to be a software engineer. Her eyes got very wide. Praise Jesus! Thank God for Noah becoming a software engineer. What would we do without our computers?

Now that is something we really have in common. Thank you Jesus for Noah. And my iMac, my iPad and my iPhone, I added.

As I left I could still hear her praising Jesus. I also heard the words software engineer banded about. At Christmas time I left her a little treat. I signed the card from Noah's Mom.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Moment That Changed Everything

I was on my way to school to pick up Noah. It was October. There was a crispness about the air and a little spring in my step. Noah was in 6th grade at a new school. I could hardly believe his good fortune. His good fortune was rapidly becoming my good fortune.

This school was bringing out the best in Noah. The people there had what it took. I'd always had a village for Noah, but now that village resided mostly at school. I could step back. The people at this school were amazing. And Noah was amazing.

As I crossed the street, I saw that some leaves from some neighborhood trees blew down to the pavement during a morning rain. They were flattened and splayed on the shiny wet road. It looked like a mosaic or collage.

I went about my afternoon of collecting Noah from school and getting ready for a PTA meeting. I thought about the leaves I'd seen earlier.

Noah and Hannah were in good hands and I left for the meeting.  On the way, I purposely passed the leaves on the road. They still looked good. And now, on top of the beautiful overlapping leaves, there was an afternoon glow bathing the wet pavement. On impulse, I took out my new iPhone and took a photograph.

That was the moment that changed everything.

In my previous life, I'd been a professional still life photographer. For 15 years, I lit, arranged, propped, styled, conceptualized. The process of making one photograph took hours. There was something exquisite about that kind of detail.

Then I stopped. For nine years, I did not pick up a camera except to take an occasional picture of my children. It wasn't sad. My focus was on other things.

But the eyes, the brain and the heart remembered. There's no forgetting this stuff. It got saved to my hard drive.

I was living on a graph. One line was my old life. Another line was my current existence. When I took the picture of the leaves, the two lines converged.

I didn't start doing still life work. I didn't go back to not photographing. I did something else.

The iPhone camera became my equipment of choice. It has limitations. Every camera does. The secret is knowing the particular personality of the device and using it accordingly.

This photography takes place in the space between. It weaves its way into the ten-minute walk from the subway to my apartment, the waiting room, the grocery store.

Things have gone from working from scratch to orchestrating nothing. I'm less busy and more aware. Where once was embellishment there is now recognition.

The last few years have taught me to think on my feet.  I work fast now, with reflexes quickened by life experience. The crises absorbed and averted were my teachers.

Photography is inexpensive these days. I become prolific. I shoot, I delete. The cream rises to the top. It always does.

A month after that first photograph I was stopped in my tracks by a thought.  I was living the life of an artist. It happened quickly. I was breathless.

Reading this is like listening to Rachmaninoff. In this case, the truth is baroque and romantic. If it sounds a little over the top to you, imagine what it's like being me.