In modeling you go on countless go-sees, maybe twenty a day. Most forgotten before you hit the bottom stair. I remember being nervous, awestruck walking into the brilliant photographer’s studio apartment, she had ‘requested’ to see me. Mary Ellen Mark wore no makeup, trademark braids and a gentle demeanor not to be mistaken for meekness. Raw genius is rarely loud or pretentious. I didn’t book the job, but remain an admirer of the sublime talent, gritty breathtaking portraits, and the woman.
Mary Ellen Mark, thank you. That was an unforgettable day. “A photographer known for her incredible humanist photography, passed away Monday in New York City. A rep confirmed the news Tuesday morning. She was 75.”
Because it’s raining, and my mother sits in the kitchen with a pencil reading Georgia Pine., first edits. I reflect. Typing in my Zen room, deep in the world of Georgia Pine. I work fast, anxious to see how the story ends, intersects, everything comes to a close. (even I don’t know if they characters will veer left or right). I am melancholy. I will miss Harrison, and her descendants. For me, living in their world is a gift, the best part of the writing process. Then I remember, people go, even imaginary ones. They exist in the mind, muscle, blood and soul, by memory. It’s the comings and goings that count.
‘Don’t let anyone make fun of you carrot top, freckle face, how you are. Someday, they will see how dazzling and pretty you are. Stand your ground, find something to believe in and go for it. Don’t look back. Don’t apologize. Be nicer to your mother, she was a free spirit once. She plain forgot. Make her laugh when she gets too serious. Protect and cherish your sisters, they’re what you got. At some point, you will be disappointed by them, even hate one or all. They might despise you, too. It won’t matter, your sisters will pick your side every time. I promise, that’s what families do. Your family, our family is bound by deep love and tradition. We are not quitters; we are backwards optimists. Takes a little longer, we get there on our time. I love that shared trait. We believe in our truths, once we’ve ripped them apart and examined the guts with a Lupe. I’m dying baby, I won’t spare you, hide the truth. So you can wonder where the hell I went. I adore you too much to leave you questioning my invisible parts. I love you right now, in this room, on this bed. You’re my big girl, so smart. I will miss bedtime tuck in’s, our secrets. Don’t tell your mama, she won’t understand. You have your grandfather’s eyes, and my cautious curiosity. Close your tired eyes, tomorrow we’ll go to the beach. Hug your grandfather when he gets sad. He’ll need you Georgia Pine, when I go.’
“Georgia looks at Harrison through the puzzled eyes of an eight year old. Hush don’t be afraid, life is about coming and going.”
We talk about it. Yeah, we do. In my house, we talk about a lot. The mundane living stuff, movies, books, music, groceries, even the weather. And, death. We talk about that, too. Well, I do most of the talking. The persistent, detective’s daughter, ever annoying and inquisitive. The fervent need to know what comes next, how it should look, the driving force. The uncomfortable, inevitable last chapter. Well, you know. So yeah, we talk about the awfully, uncomfortable details. My most important person and me. The one that birthed me, gave me a life, the one that does the grunt work. Grinding up the gizzards for the holidays, the not so fun chores, traditions I rebuke. She watched as I make mistake after mistake, stuck on repeat. She told me to get up, brush it off, only to fall flat. Do it all over again. She did that, supported the triumphs and tears. So, I talk now. A lot. And I ask, one more time. Needing to get the ending right. She doesn’t want a confining box, that I’m sure. Never been boxed in before, why start now? Ashes are to be sprinkled, here and there. I know the exact, precision spots, the ideal time of day and year. I will do that, for her. I can do that, without being asked. Moral responsibility tells me so. She has her playlist composed, with all the familiar songs. The old favorites, classics that spanned a lifetime of happy, memories and intimate moments defined by a song. Per instruction, I’m to play them loud. To dance, sing and try to be happy. Celebrate this one life, no pity party necessary.
Chalk it up to morbid curiosity, the incessant need to know. I want the same, more or less. I’m spelling it out for you, now. No fuss, no muss. A quick mass to cover the bases. Ashes catch a ride on a spring, almost summer breeze, somersaults in mid-air without form, the spirit lives in the ether, light and easy. My playlist is a work in progress. I choose the songs carefully, with attention to detail. I’ve rocked out in stadiums, danced hot, sticky and sopping wet with delirious abandon, listened quietly to headphones, alone in the dark. Sitting by an open window legs perched on a sill, trying to get some relief from the overbearing, city heat. Feeling alive and independent. I revel in the silence and red stained lip from a half empty glass of Pinot Noir. The solitary me moment, the lone candle casts shadows upon the wall. I am moved to tears by a melody. A dance party. Yes, that’s exactly what I want. With happy colors and a lifetime’s intimately compiled playlist. A million, orange paper lanterns illuminate the night sky. A muffled, bass undertone lifts me up. Yes, that’s how heavenly it shall be. The maudlin, well-meaning, over thinker in me, has high hopes and glorified dreams.