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« A Mother A Son And A Deployment | Main | X Marks The Spot »
Saturday
Jun152013

My Father

Black and white photographs dangled on a string, handcuffed by clothespins over the toilet. This was our darkroom.
I was 10. Dad loved photography, and the most logical place to conduct the transformation of images to paper was, of course, on a collapsible photo lab above the toilet. It was pretty ingenious actually, developing possibilities above the Porcelain God. The perfect day was a collision with my father of photographic banter - huddled in the echoed walls of tangerine walls and formica countertops. I watched him worship imagery, dipping and drenching the 8 x 10 sheets of magic paper into solutions, witnessing images cross the middle realm to the harsh reality of our 1970's bathroom. My mother had painted the bathroom orange to match the box of Tide. Why it was orange still perplexes me. Plus the fact that the box of Tide never entered the bathroom.
My father and I had one very important thing in common: the pursuit of the perfect photograph, and my father was the master hunter. He was armed for the capture with Minolta in hand and a crackling brown leather bag - its buckle bursting with filters and lenses for any possible scenario. Rolls of film marinated in every ASA, color, black and white, slide film.

One of the scariest things I've ever heard him say was, "Real photographers shoot in slides. National Geographic only accepts slides." Dad was a genius at the technical aspect of photography. The science of the capture crouched in wait on my father's tongue - anticipating the moment I might ask a question about lens length or aperture so he could leap his knowledge into my brain. This game of proverbial darts never quite hit home. I spent my childhood fascinated by the act of taking pictures and developing images, but running from the attempt to actually understand the process. It somehow seemed that if I knew what I was doing, the magic would dissolve into the abyss of that Porcelain God.
Someday I would understand his technical speak, but not yet. I wasn't ready. I was having too much fun watching our negatives evolve into prints of Kodak couture. His capture of dewdrops on a flower, the angelic flares in a sunsets, nature wrangled by his lens.
There is no longer a darkroom in our home. My bathroom is beige. The brown crackled bag sits in my closet, baring fossils of our hunt. I await that perfect day, when he and I sit together again, when the miles contract and the world forgives our temporary retreat into our divided realities. The days of Tide are long behind us, but the memories will linger, dangling gently in my mind, by clothespins.

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