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MARTHA SEZ: Can you picture this?

August 6, 2012
MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

I 'm sorting through some photographs, which is the most strenuous activity I am capable of in this heat. A certain amount of wrist action is involved in turning over the pictures, but I'm doing it languidly. Seeing all of these moments caught by the camera .jostles my memory, and even that much jostling takes energy. It's so hot!

The photographs are in a cardboard box. No attempt has ever been made to classify, label or categorize them. These are the rejects, the pictures that didn't make it into albums over the years. Does anybody throw snapshots, even rejects, away? I think there is an unspoken taboo against throwing images of loved ones into the trash, and your snapshots are generally of people you love, or used to love. Ouch. Sometimes all of this jostling hurts.

For the archives, I chose the photos I thought would represent my life in the kindest possible light. These are the "best-foot-forward" views of family and social life. All right, everybody, pull in closer together! Smile! Say cheese! Biff, you blinked, let's take it again.

Here we are on a picnic in the country, wading at the shore, climbing Baxter Mountain, gathered around a Christmas tree. If Bobby was attacked by yellowjackets, Aunt Pip got stung by a jellyfish, Cousin Mabel flew into a rage at Biff for pinching Minnie under the dining room table and if Dahlia got drunk on eggnog and lurched outside into a blizzard singing "When the Saints Come Marching In" at the top of her lungs - if such untoward events did in fact occur - and I'm not saying they did - you will not find them documented in this album.

Nor will you be likely to see the disorder of daily life: clothing and toys strewn around the house, ashtrays, beer cans, fighting or other signs of vice and debauchery.

Also, in my album, you will not see any unflattering pictures of me. Especially not those. Photographic excellence may be taken into account, but not at the expense of flattery. if I am choosing between a sharply focused photo of myself and a nice, blurry, misty one, I'll choose the latter every time. So much more romantic!

After all, which do you prefer - for yourself, I mean - justice or mercy? Stark realism is just fine for others, but in photos of myself I like subtlety and nuance.

This is silly, I know, because in real life I am in plain view most of the time; everyone can see me. But after I die, when the biographers come around looking for pictures, do I want them to find that one of me in the bathing suit that makes me look fat? I don't think so.

As I go through the box, I'm finding that I enjoy these rejects more than the pictures I considered album quality. They are more natural, more evocative of the way things really were. I'm listening to the radio as I come across a photograph of my old friend Tom Doezema and me. We are laughing so hard we can't sit up straight. I don't remember what was so funny that long-ago summer day, and Tom is dead now, murdered years ago by burglars in his apartment in Manhattan, so I can't ask him. Horrible. Horrible. Still, I smile when I think of him, smile as I look at his image. On the radio, the disc jockey is playing an old record.

When you dance you

go cha cha cha

And when you sing

you go la la la

And when you laugh

you go ha ha ha

You keep me happy

all the time.

The song is perfect for the moment, and if you know who recorded it, please tell me. This memory jostling can be bittersweet.

Here's a dilemma: Someone recently sent me a digital photo printout of my daughter, Molly, and me. It's a beautiful picture of Molly. She looks so happy and pretty! I, on the other hand, look lumpy and bleary, like some goofy hag.

As I stare at the picture, my young friend Darla walks in, and I hand it to her.

"Do you think this looks like me?" I ask her.

"Omigod!" she screams. "This is just so totally not you! it's, like, totally an optical illusion! It's a disfigurement!"

I really, really like Darla.

Well, I guess I should get going. It's so hard to move, though. It's so HOT!

Have a good week.



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