September, 2012 Archives

Wedding Weekend

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September 25th, 2012

Back when I was mostly just a photographer, I always felt weird telling people, “but I’m a writer too.” Lately, I’ve gotten a weird tickle in my tummy when I tell folks, “but I’m a photographer too.” I guess we live by labels; they help organize our thoughts, categorizing people into understandable cubbyholes. “That’s my […]

Back when I was mostly just a photographer, I always felt weird telling people, “but I’m a writer too.” Lately, I’ve gotten a weird tickle in my tummy when I tell folks, “but I’m a photographer too.”

I guess we live by labels; they help organize our thoughts, categorizing people into understandable cubbyholes. “That’s my friend, the scullery maid,” or “Look out for ________; he’s one of those Snollygosters.”

Roles change, thank goodness. The hats I wear not only cover up my bald head, but also allow me a more amorphous path as I skip through life. Sometimes, I refer to myself by that old standby, “journalist.” Sometimes I call myself a “recovering journalist.” I like, though, my Twitter handle: “Fellow Wanderer, Father, Friend, Professor, Photographer, Videographer, Author, Humorist.”

This weekend, playing the role of wedding photographer, I shot a wonderful couple’s ceremony and reception. Meghan and Johnathon found me while searching the web way down deep in the heart of Texas. The gorgeous Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in Detroit hosted their wedding and the swank Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle was reserved for their reception.

They were a particularly fun, photogenic couple who attracted equally fun and photogenic friends and family. It was great hanging out with them. I had a blast, no snollygosting about it!

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWeddingOne.jpgThe groomsmen asked for a jump shot.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWeddingTwo.jpgMeghan squrims as Johnathon attempts to retrieve her garter.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWeddingThree.jpgMeghan liked being picked up by a bunch of guys.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWeddingFour.jpgThe newly married bride and groom walk back down the aisle of the beautiful Saints Peter & Paul Jesuit Church in Detroit.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWeddingFive.jpgYou could tell Meghan and Johnathon had practiced their wedding dance ahead of time. They pulled it off with elegance!

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWeddingSix.jpgThe lovely couple pause for a quiet moment amidst the hubbub.

Jodie

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September 15th, 2012

Jodie looked great; beautiful blonde hair, wide smile, shining eyes. “Five years ago next month,” she said. Waiting in line for some organic goodness at the Farmers Market, she called out my name from across the throng, not knowing that I needed to hear from her. I didn’t even know myself. Cancer came calling for […]

Jodie looked great; beautiful blonde hair, wide smile, shining eyes. “Five years ago next month,” she said.

Waiting in line for some organic goodness at the Farmers Market, she called out my name from across the throng, not knowing that I needed to hear from her. I didn’t even know myself.

Cancer came calling for her five years ago. I used to see her standing in the lunch line at work, head hidden by a colorful scarf. I would approach her with trepidation back then. Sorry Jodie, sorry for doing that. Sorry for telling you now. I wasn’t sure what to say, what to ask, how to feel.

Then her obnoxious visitor knocked on my door. Jodie knew what to ask. She knew what to say, how to feel. God, thank you for that. Thank for helping me along those early steps. Sorry for just telling you now.

She’s had two babies since then and has gotten on with living, something fierce. This time, I knew what to talk about; friends, family, futures. We spoke of not just surviving, but thriving. That’s the new, hip, hot way to talk about licking cancer, just so you know.

I didn’t tell her I’d been on a worrying streak lately. I couldn’t express that weird, gnawing fear that sometimes creeps in that maybe I didn’t beat the odds. Maybe this was all an act. That minor indigestion just now, stomach cancer? Chest beating as I top the stairs, heart attack?

But there she was, looking better than she does on facebook, vital, strong, doing something simple like buying fresh food for her family on a Saturday morning. I introduced her to my wife, chatted a bit more, then we went our own ways.

Something changed in me, though. There was a lot less lumber on my shoulders as we drove home. My recent, silly anxieties had somehow eased up and mostly floated away. I think the heaviest loads we carry are the ones we don’t feel until their absence.

And there again, I have Jodie to thank. Thank you just for living, for making babies, for going to the Farmers Market.

And thank you for calling my name in the middle of all that chaos.

Fall Guy

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September 12th, 2012

This photo is courtesy of the wonderful staff and dedicated workers over at rodneycurtis.com. I don’t trust fall. It’s out there, through the window, waving at me as fake summer breezes bake the vegetables in my planter box. The willow trees we put in the ground when shorter than me, have exploded to three stories […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcHomeHarvest.jpgThis photo is courtesy of the wonderful staff and dedicated workers over at rodneycurtis.com.

I don’t trust fall. It’s out there, through the window, waving at me as fake summer breezes bake the vegetables in my planter box. The willow trees we put in the ground when shorter than me, have exploded to three stories in height. They too wave at me saying, “It’s okay Rodney; winter’s miles away.”

I’m not sure who paid them off, but they’re hiding their shedded leaves, swept under their rug as if to say, “Fall? Nothing fell.” When willows are in cahoots with the greater forces in life, you have to watch your back(yard).

God, I want to run outside and play. I want to ride my bike and jump on the trampoline and plan long, slow walks holding my gorgeous bride’s hand. But I know, the minute I do, I will have fallen victim to their deceit.

The basil still smells like memories on my hands and the tomatoes liked sliced sun. So what if the banana peppers went bananas and taste like nothing. That deception I can live with. This pretend July is almost abusive in its teasing.

My heart screams, “Just enjoy this time, this now, this present.” But my head knows better. My head understands that as soon as I embrace this September blue sky, it will turn January gray.

I want to hold on to every scrap of summer; sandals, shorts, sock-less strolls. I don’t want the party to end. It’s closing time and I’m still buzzed.


Special thanks to writing guru Bill Palmer, without whom I’d never be sitting here without socks, staring out my window, as I desperately try and respond to yet another one of his powerful emails.

Matriculation & Maturation

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September 4th, 2012

Skye and Taylor, then and now. Our friend Julie paused as she was walking up the stands to the school pool. She asked how things were going after both her son and our daughter took off to college. I said Skye was doing fine, adjusting to everything, having a blast in her new home. “It’s […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcOffToSchoolcompositeDesaturated.jpgSkye and Taylor, then and now.

Our friend Julie paused as she was walking up the stands to the school pool. She asked how things were going after both her son and our daughter took off to college. I said Skye was doing fine, adjusting to everything, having a blast in her new home.

“It’s not Skye I’m worried about; it’s you,” Julie responded, indicating my wife and I.

I laughed as I sat there thinking about our oldest girl’s absence, as our youngest was out practicing on the diving board. Maybe I’m trying too hard to drink in every moment with Taylor. Going out onto the diving board in my street clothes to give her a hug is, yeah, probably a bit too much. Whereas some fathers are emotionally distant, I tend toward emotionally in-your-face.

It’s hard to stop looking into my older daughter’s blank room. Her door used to always stay shut, a teen girl’s domain being her fortress. It became a comedy routine, me continually telling her to clean up, her attending to much bigger, grander things than the smell emanating from the dirty dishware she’d eaten Indian food from days earlier. I’d give anything to smell that odor these days.

No, not really. Not at all. I leave the door open because I finally can walk by without an anal-retentive cringe. She actually cleaned the place up pretty decently before heading off to her freshman year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

I look at the composite picture above; Skye going off to kindergarten with Taylor ready for pre-school — then just moments ago, Skye going off to college with Taylor ready for the 11th grade. It seems as though there’s profound wisdom to be had. I should really be making great, laser-accurate correlations between the two. But all I can do is just stare at both pictures with a strange smile.

When we traded Skye and a vanload of her stuff for an empty car ride home and a few collegiate t-shirts, it seemed like a crappy deal. They got so much, we got “machine wash warm, tumble dry.” And yet we’ll soon be making the same exchange for Taylor; an empty, silent house for a couple of sparkling daughters so electric with energy, I can’t even begin to list the items that won’t be part of our void. I’m sorry about the double negative, in more ways than one.

Unless we can convince Taylor to attend the University of Troy and then convince a university to relocate to Troy, we’ll be going through this same thing in two more years.

Yeah, there’s always going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas and the summer. This slow growth toward maturity really stinks though. And yes, I’m talking about their maturity, not my own, which I abandoned years ago.

I hope I savored both the good and the mundane enough. I hope I tolerated the bad without being too much of a jerk. I hope those backpacks they’re carrying have far more than just books and snacks. But I also hope they aren’t carrying too much, metaphorically and realistically. There’s a precedent for that fear; we accidentally loaded up a large, overstuffed bag and made the journey west with it, only to find out the thing was just some of our daughter’s cast-offs, destined for the basement or the Salvation Army.

It helped that everyone on campus seemed to know her and rushed up to hug and say hello for the first time. As Marci and I drove home and paid our umpteenth toll around Chicago, I realized the irony. Everything we worked, saved and hoped for left us feeling a bit flat. Our victory was our defeat.

But then, as if answering some un-wished-for prayer, a bright, brilliant message sung out from our answering machine after the diving meet. “Mom, Dad, even though my audition stunk, I got into the Freshmen Girls Choir!”

Suddenly, everything is better. And my smile when I look at that composite photo of my girls growing up isn’t strange or fraught with mixed emotions. I think my smile is real. I seem genuinely proud and excited for my daughters.

Maybe I’m finally maturing just a wee bit too.