Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dinner w/ Granny Olive...

Desperately Seeking…

On a sweltering August morning we sat in the famous old square. The path was quite and still as she patiently sketched. It was a perfectly serene morning for this artist endeavor.

Her hair fell below her shoulders as the stagnant humidity sucked it up into a wavy curl. The lines of her face were faint but they traced her life. The face was of a woman well beyond her years. Sun spots dotted her hands from endless years of exposure.

She continuously asked me to look forward. You see, I am incapable of sitting completely still. She mixed charcoals and gently stroked the paper. She was perfecting the peachy tone of my skin. Her eyebrows would move up with each movement of her hands. I thought this was a facial gesture I should mimic. In my mind, I thought I would appear younger in the drawing. In the end, a youthful appearance did emerge on paper but my raised eyebrows had little influence on the outcome.

In the shadows of the previous evening, Jose and I briskly strolled by Jackson Square. Over the years, this path has been well worn with our foot steps. We were rushing to our dinner date at a local favorite, Irene’s. The pastel and charcoal drawings caught my eye from afar. They were smooth in appearance and subjects took on a childlike glow. A woman collected her work by sliding the pages into cardboard tubes. She was a new sight upon this old stones street. I was drawn to her and her works of art. Without hesitation, we made a date for the following morning.

The three of us chatted as Jose' and I sat for our double portrait. We shared bits of our lives and became instantly acquainted. It was as if we had known each other for an eternity. We swapped stories about travel and the many wonders of The Big Easy.

In the mists of our chat it was revealed that she was a Birthmother. A vagabond artist of the 60’s and 70’s living in New York and around the country. She relinquished 2 children in hopes of giving them a better life. She was a cross between Joni Mitchell and old school Bette Midler in looks and demeanor. As she shared her life’s story, we laughed and joked. I also noticed something familiar within her deep empty gaze. It was a look I had seen before in my own birthmother’s face.

Her stories were fascinating. She had lived in abandoned buildings and seen many facets of life. Her unconventional ways of living and coping were intriguing and mesmerizing.

The most amazing part was the resilience that resided within her soul. During a bought with homelessness, she began to put a charcoal cross on her forehead. This was not a sign of religious significance but a signal for those that surround her to back off. This tiny cross kept undesirables at bay. Her theory was, “if I appear crazy it will keep all the pimps, junkies and other crazies at a distance.” All in all, her theory worked and she survived that low point of her life.

As years passed, we would run into our charismatic artist and fellow member of the adoption triad. She would sketch sitting on the path of Saint Peter Street. She was a fixture on the outskirts of the famous square and a matriarch among the other artisans.

Our portrait was completed in 1998 and many things have transpired since then in the Crescent City. Jose and I have come and gone countless times to this jewel of the south. It was a second home to us for many years before the hurricane of 2005. It has become a beloved city in our minds but one we abandoned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In the past six years, I have thought of this allusive artist and birthmother often. I walk past her work daily and it reminds of how our paths crossed. I have searched the Internet and called art co-ops throughout the area. It seems she disappeared like the flood waters from the storm.

This summer our family will travel back in time. We want to introduce our son to this quaint European City within the US Boarders. Our plan is to visit our old haunts and the New Orleans we dearly loved. We are also desperately seeking Nancy Davis. She was the unforgettable artist that touched our life and continues to live within our hearts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

These 2 wonderful cards were sent home from nursery school on Friday.  We have a fantastic group of teachers that work with our son.

Say Cheese...

Friday Play Date...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dare Devil...


one that meddles; also : blabbermouth, gossip
My little darling had tested me too many times that afternoon.  As I looked into his bright eyes he realized that a different type of insanity was going to quickly unfold.  He realized the harshness of my tone and he quietly snapped back to the realities of our dinner table. A calm came over Brase that extinguished his fiery tantrum.

Mind you, I do not remember exactly what I said.  I am positive the statement contained the words, "Absolutely not!"  These words seem to be my constant mantra, at present.  This statement was probably followed by, "We do not act like this!"

My son's temper is my cross to bear.  You will be forever cursed if your mother has ever spoken the vile words, "I hope your children act exactly as you did as a child."  You see, I am paying my penance. 

I have learned that negotiating does not work at this stage of the game.  If I look Brase in the eyes and lay down the rules he will conform.  It may take an unpleasant tone and a few minutes but the end result is effective.  He has not learned that my bark is much worse than my bite.

I believe I come by this child rearing technique naturally.  I learned it from my WASP mother.  I never remember getting a spanking but I certainly remember my mother's voice echoing from the walls of the ladies lounge.  I always exited our impromptu chats completely composed but obsessed with her every word. 

Brase now sat quietly.  I took a generous bite of my knish and breathed a sigh of relief.  This battle had ended and I was happy to simply finish my meal. 

As I glanced up from my plate, a lady approached from two tables away. Our eyes were conversing before she reached me.  I knew another battle was going to quickly escalate into a full scale war.  She said... "is this your baby?"  Then without another breathe she said..."do you boys need some help?"  Her tone was sharp and impertinent.

This was day 3 of a very long extended weekend.  A weekend that encompassed 1 doctor visit and 4 pharmacy runs.  Our little one had yet another upper respiratory infection brought on by a mystery virus. Brase had also gifted this illness to me.  Fortunately, we were on the downside of this virulent bug.

The stranger persisted with the manners of a bull.  Her smile was strained as she relayed her thoughts on parenting.  Somewhere in her muddled of words the phrase "motherly instinct" shot from her mouth.

I took one deep breathe as my son happily sat playing with a teaspoon. Brase looked at me as he shouted the words "Da, Da, Da!"  You see, he wanted my full attention.

Remember those commercials during the 80's for the brokerage firm E. F. Hutton?  The tag line  was... "When E. F. Hutton talks people listen."  Those commercials always ended with swarms of people eavesdropping on a very private conversation.  At this point I felt like my family had a staring role in one of those short comic/drama episodes. 

As I raised my eyebrows, I remembered my audience.  You see, tonight's dinner theatre presentation was playing out in our favorite local Jewish delicatessen.  This place is where the sick come to eat.  It's the only place in the city that you can find matzo ball soup that comes a close second to your bubbie's.

My script was short but I was the star of the show.  I not so politely declined the services of this overreaching Yenta.  In addition, I gave her some personal thoughts to ponder and interjected a few choice words. I will not repeat exactly what I said because I am not proud of the expletive that rolled off my tongue.  I will say that the woman abruptly excused herself but forgot to apologize.  The one scene act quickly played out.

In the aftermath, Jose face unclenched.  The reality is... I was afraid that my calm partner in life was going to take this lady out.  I have seen him this mad only a handful of times in the last twenty years. 

As the tension eased, I ordered 3 cheese filled blintzes. I justified this treat by saying, "We deserved them after all we had been through."  Jose and I also discussed our latest lessons on communication skills and parenting.

The bottom line... I know my child and I know how to handle him.  I have fed, bathed, rocked and nurtured him since the second of he was born.  He is my son and I do not need a vagina to raise him. 

Overall, people are so kind to our family.  We live in a metropolitan area that encompasses 6.1 million people.  It's a big city with vast diversity and cultures.  On occasion, we run into the town idiot.  It seems this is another cross our non-traditional family must bear from time to time.


Floyd - Estrada
Family Productions