Chasing Butterflies & Flying StukasSaturday, June 01, 2013
As I was taking pictures of Lauren in the garden on Saturday chasing imagined butterflies with her butterfly net I remembered my Uncle Tony’s U-control model airplanes.
In the late 40s and early 50 my Uncle Tony, Tía Sarita and cousin Wenceslao would often show up on Saturday mornings. They lived in downtown Buenos Aires and we lived in Coghlan one of the stops of the urban train, Bartolomé Mitre on its way from Retiro to the Paraná River delta of Tigre.
Uncle Tony was a chemical engineer who worked for Dupont Argentina. He was an avid model airplane builder. He constructed beautifully detailed WWII fighters which he flew with the double wire U-control. His airplanes were powered by K&B Torpedo engines that had a simple fixed-size venturi with only a mixture ratio adjustment. After starting the engine with his index finger Wenceslao or I would hold on to the plane and Uncle Tony would run to the end of the wires and the hand control. He would taxi the plane and it would take off.
|Wenceslao & the Stuka|
None of Uncle Tony’s planes ever lasted. When they crashed he would remove the engine and a few important parts, leaving the scaled machine guns and fighter pilots (some had moustaches) all in a pile which he then set on fire by pouring engine fuel which I believe was part ether and some sort of oil.
As I watched Lauren, 10 run in the garden I could now see her with the experience of a grandfather twice over. As a father when my two daughters were approaching their teens I hired photographer James La Bounty to take their portraits. My Rosemary wondered why I did this seeing that I was a capable photographer myself. I told Rosemary that as their father I saw the girls as little girls and La Bounty would in his obvious objectivity see them as girls becoming women.
Since then I have learned a few things. Perhaps the most important lesson is that little girls are not little girls for long. One cannot prevent this awful passage from happening. The idea is to enjoy the moment when a little girl is still a little girl.
As I photographed Lauren in the garden I enjoyed every second of it knowing that any day now, she will stop chasing butterflies that are not there. And like my Uncle Tony’s airplanes she will soar, and be exciting. But one day it will all suddenly end and I must be prepared to accept it and move on with the transition. This transition, unlike the crash and burn of Uncle Tony’s planes, will be ripe with the transformation of that little girl to a full blown woman. If there happens to be a “monster-like” teenage element in between only patience will serve. My Uncle Tony had it in spades. I could learn.