Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Redemption at the grocery: a Take Back Your Pride coupon

How do you recover from a creative lull? Feeling scraped-out hollow after the dance showcase, I took drastic measures: I photographed produce. Doesn't everybody recharge at the sight of food?

OK, I'm more normal than I let on. I didn't set out to stalk celery (ahem), but weeks of artistic sugar low were beginning to worry me. Dust thick enough to plant potatoes had settled on the blog, the upcycled clothing shop and my photography on flickr. Finally, I felt a familiar stirring. We were downtown at Greens Market when weird beauty beckoned.

These remind me of Rembrandt's tulips
Squished squash petals—say that three times fast.
Nippled tubermajigs
Redefining beauty by Scrollwork
Came the showstopper. Christi, who works there, said, "You should've seen it yesterday when they were in bloom." But I like it better like this, all gnarly and writhing. So much more pathos. They seem to be cringing from the glare, collapsing into themselves in the retreat.

It reminds me of a recent conversation I had with my youngest daughter, nearly 24—the age I was when I had her. She's probably the only person on this planet I can be most transparent with, and we take turns being the fount of wisdom for each other.

One of the phrases I don't particularly care for is "for your age." You look good/you're fit/you're doing so well—all great compliments until they're followed by "for your age." Most younger people haven't felt the full impact of such a backhanded compliment.

But for the first time, in the context of our conversation, the phrase took on the best meaning intended.

A few days ago, I'd been knocked off my rocker by a friend's action, which had ricocheted at me out of nowhere. My usually imperturbable self-esteem had taken a hit. All because the friend had reneged on our previous agreement and chosen someone over me THEN lightheartedly cited the younger woman's physical attributes in his defense. A double whammy.

Times like these called for not just any BFF, but someone who owes you big-time for the 11 1/2 hours of contractions you endured to push her out into the world.

"Dialing Boo," my cellphone said. I felt comforted already.

My baby girl and I have perfected the art of debriefing and consultation within the window of time that is her lunch break. I've taught her well, by example. When it was I who had a day job we slotted her calls between deadlines. Now, apprised of the crisis in ego, she repeated to me a customized version of what only days earlier I had spoonfed her when she was reeling from her own oh-no-he-didn't situation.

"You're awesome."
"I'm awesome," I said flatly.
"For your age," she continued, specifying the components of awesomeness in my personhood.
"That girl," she added—and here's why I think she is wise beyond her years—"she's just young and beautiful, but she hasn't done anything with her life yet."
"She's your age," I noted. It didn't faze her. This girl, flesh of my flesh, could suspend her own need for validation for the moment to throw me a lifesaver. I took it. She'll need it back someday in the not too distant future, and I'm keeping it warm for her.

Because really, what other defense do we have against the obvious onslaught of time and the sharp though unintentional jab of a friend?

"You should've seen me when I was in bloom." No, that does nothing.

All we can do is point to our progeny and hope the blind can connect the dots: She's a beauty, and some of that must've come from, um, me.

As for the friend—Are you going to Scarborough Fair?


  1. You're awesome, Scrollwork -- no matter what your age. It's his loss. Time changes everyone (even 24-year-olds eventually). As your daughter said, you bring much more than youth or perky (ahem) melons to the table. I'm so glad you're back. I've missed you! :)

  2. I don't think I've ever seen peppers that color...those are cool!

    I think it's wonderful that you have such a great relationship with your daughter :) My mom is my best friend!

  3. Great pics and great dialog - thanks for sharing and so happy you have an awesome daughter!

  4. You took an ordinary event and turned it into something exciting ! Bravo !

  5. Lovely pictures Scrollwork. It is good to read you again.
    As for being overlooked for your age, well, it's your friend's loss and frankly, what he did sucks.
    When something like that happens to me, usually it is because something really good will happen next! Take care.

  6. I really love your writing style. This felt like something I would stumble upon in a book. In a good way, of course!

  7. The photos and your daughter are LOVELY!! And yes, all this because you raised her magnificently! You ARE awesome :-))

  8. When I hit a creative wall I try to flip from creator to consumer and read/watch/enjoy the work of others. It inspires me. I do kinda love that you went to the produce. Clever solution.

  9. I should stay up late more often and publish at midnight! Then I'll always have an amazing start to my day, reading your heartwarming gifts.

    It is so good to be among old friends and see new ones. I'll be visiting you in turn! Thanks so much.

  10. Without no seams nor needlework...we will have no "Scrollwork"

  11. John, I'll take that as a profound way of saying I earned my wrinkles and owies/boo-boos, and that they've made me who I am today. Boy, I really enjoyed your comment!

  12. I love this post. It sounds like you raised an awesome daughter!

    BTW,I'm very jealous of your market.

  13. Ooh! Christi will be especially happy to hear that. That reminds me, I had promised to email her with the URL of my blog.

  14. I loved this post. I've snapped a few produce pics myself (lush lettuce...yeahhh), but what drew me in was the funny, eloquent way you described your relationship with your daughter. And, of course, your awesomeness. :)

  15. I'm feeling a little guilty and ashamed of myself for throwing a pity party and holding a memorial service for my ebbing looks when clearly I am incredibly blessed to have such a daughter!

    You know what else? I think of myself as an optimist, with cynical inclinations, granted, but the blog somehow seduces the neurotic pessimist in me to come sashaying out! Boy do I need you guys to keep me in line!

  16. Thanks so much for this post! I was so excited to read it and see your pictures. I'm glad I'm not the only one who geeks out about a pretty bell pepper!
    -Christi @ Greens Market

  17. A daughter who understands is a beautiful thing. I love "you should have seen the bloom yesterday."

    Well, we all age and some maybe spare the process with a little help from plastic surgeons. I plan to take the road of pot and sink holes. I figure I deserve every last ridge and dent. Thanks for a lovely post!

  18. I should know better, really, and shouldn't have let that friend's remark get to me. When the shoe was on the other foot, I was in my 20s and a 40-something male friend of mine showed me pics of himself in his 20s. I supposed he meant for me to see him at his peak, at least physically. But all I could do was bust out laughing that he had so much hair! I am being punished by karma. Seriously though, I liked him the way I had met him—seasoned, with character lines, receding hairline and all. But then again I'm a woman, and men don't generally appreciate us the same way.

  19. Lovely post, very honest, light, but also touching.
    And beautiful photos!!