My Granddaughter - The EnigmaMonday, January 03, 2011
It is human nature to compare and to contrast. And it is human nature to have favourites. There was a time, about four years ago when my granddaughter Rebecca (she is 13 and a bit now) would ask me, “What’s your favourite…?” Sometimes the questions were strange. As an example she might have asked me, “Which is your favourite cracker?”
My two daughters, Alexandra and Hilary were born at a three and a half year interval. My mother moved with us to our home in Mexico City in 1971. She had helped finance its purchase. Luckily my Rosemary and my mother got along very well. Both Rosemary and I worked long hours so my mother took care of Ale and did so until Ale was 4, which is when my mother died. I remember arriving home and listening to my mother say, “That Ale is a terca (stubborn). Today she refused to read her books with me and threw them out of the window.” My mother was almost in tears.
Before my mother had moved in with us she had sent a lovely dress for Ale from Chicago’s Marshall Fields when she had been visiting her son (my uncle) Tony. She always told us how much she loved Ale.
Then Hilary was born. My mother never had a chance to get to know Hilary as my mother was dead before Hilary was one. When she first gazed on Hilary the only nice thing she could say was, “She has beautiful hands.”
I see this pattern of having a favourite daughter and granddaughter repeating itself. It has to be human nature and all one can do is to try one’s best. For a long time my eldest was my favourite. Then she became quite independent. She lives in Lillooet. Sometimes when she visits I feel I don't know her. Then when I look at her sister, Hilary, who smiles just like my mother I feel complete tenderness for her. Is this a case of shifting favourites?
When Rebecca was six or seven we might have seen Gunga Din together. Now I cannot really watch with her films to match her age of 13 because her younger sister is around. I have to look for films that both can watch. That's tough if one eliminates the animated films (which I mostly deplore).
So my wife and I are trying some tricks. Rosemary and I both saw The King’s Speech. Rosemary then took Rebecca to see that film. Rebecca enjoyed it. Meanwhile I had taken Lauren to the Alberta Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Queen Elizabeth. I had seen a few Nutcrackers with Rebecca in the past. This time around it was just Lauren.
With Rebecca Rosemary and I traveled to Washington DC, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico three times. Lauren was left out because she was too young. This year we four plan to visit my friend Mike East and his partner Letty García in their South Texas ranch. This will be the first time that Rosemary and I travel with both granddaughters.
I love to photograph Rebecca but I have problems taking pictures of Lauren. She has a terrible and uncontrollable habit of closing her eyes for a majority of exposures. In the beginning I would get angry (shouting at a stutterer?) and of course it did not help at all. Little by little Lauren has improved a bit. I took 16 exposures of Lauren with different animal toys that were all previously owned by her mother and her aunt. She managed to close or semi close her eyes for half of them. But there are a few good ones. The one here proves that.
I will have to be more patient and wait for Lauren to catch up. Meanwhile I can report that I have been astounded by one difference that to me is fascinating. When I photograph Rebecca it seems that my portraits penetrate and expose her soul. With Lauren there seems to be a barrier. It is an intriguing one which I hope some day to penetrate. Meanwhile I enjoy watching how Lauren watches me without revealing in the least what her thoughts might be.
At the Nutcracker she did not ask me one thing. I mentioned, “There are going to be some giant mice, soon.” She replied, “I know.” The growing Christmas tree and the loud bang of the cannon did not startle her at all. She took it all as normal, part of the show.
Lauren is an enigma. She is my favourite enigma.