Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sunday Lunch

"Missing memories, scraps of childhood undiscussed."
~ Raymond A. Foss, "Family Secrets"

On Sunday I had lunch at lovely Artisanal, where dishes were a-clattering and trays a-dropping, with my sister Terry, her husband, Paul, and Mirta, a long-lost relative who recently found us while doing genealogical research. She is, as best we could figure it, a second or third cousin once- or twice-removed, a descendant of a great or great-great aunt who married a man from Cuba and moved there about 100 years ago. She sent us this photo from an old graveyard in Baltimore, where my father's family lived (in Baltimore, not the graveyard) for many generations. We got along well and before long, things were comfortably family-like.

As I assume is common on these occasions, we swapped family stories and secrets. News of another scandal attached to my paternal grandmother was not a surprise  — she pretty much specialized in scandals. But I was extremely surprised when my sister causally mentioned our father had been a model for Arrow shirts in the 1920s. I knew our mom modeled, but dad? How could I not know that? This photograph turns out to be one of his head shots. I've always loved it, but now I have to decide whether it represents the man or his shirt. At the very least, it gives the phrase "a model father" (which he was) a new, literal meaning.

I always feel a little light-headed, almost oxygen-deprived after an hour or more of socializing. Is this common among people who normally communicate in writing? In any case, after lunch I went for a walk to sort and process the news of the day. Suddenly I found myself in the middle of a street fair.

Block after block of crepes and lemonade, sunglasses, falafel, hats and handbags and people in shorts.

I felt as if I were in a submarine traveling through an alien undersea world, looking out through a fish-eye lens. It's not that I'm antisocial, exactly, but I like my humans in smaller groups. It was a relief  to finally reach the quieter streets near home.

"Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me. I like being alone in a room."
~ Neil Simon


  1. I suspect that a lot depends not only on the subject but also on the type of socialising. Some company is ultra-relaxed — among old friends, say, and with breaks in conversation and no 'performance' pressure — and might therefore be less likely to induce feelings of light-headedness.

    Much as I enjoy the hustle and bustle of dense urban crowds, there's something unsettling about them too. Psychologically I don't think we're all that suited to urban life, though we've adjusted admirably in many ways. But it requires a certain switching off, a tuning out from the immediacy of the throng.

  2. You are right that the people and the context affect the light-headedness. A couple of Twitter friends said the same thing happens to them, and the astute @Kcecelia recognized it as the sign of an introvert who needs a recharge. I have learned to fake extroversion rather well over the years, but does exhaust me.

    As you know, I live in a city and love it, but I love it most when the streets are not so thronged.

  3. Cities have become enormous. Even the word metropolis eventually fell short so they had to come up with megalopolis. Galway city, where I live, is more of a large town, and I'm near the coast in a traditional village that gradually became part of the city, so it doesn't feel so crowded. I still miss expanses of fields and woods, though.

    And I meant to say earlier: that's a very handsome photo of your father.