Madrid (New Mexico)
Several days ago the five of us went to New Mexico, where we usually land for family escapes. Instead of our loved and much visited Arroyo Seco, however, we traveled south of Santa Fe, to an isolated little house I had found for a song on airbnb. It had a loft and a private bedroom and views that went for eternity; the first day it snowed, and it seemed we could see the clouds blowing in from a thousand miles away. Like most beautiful places one sees for only a fleeting few days, it seems already a dream.
One cold morning we went to Madrid, an old ghost town that has been resurrected by hippies and off-the-gridders and is now an odd strip of galleries and rarely open shops whose windows are filled with wind-torn posters advertising some revolution or other or a meditation session from six months ago.
The first thing we did, being parents of three small children, was find a cafe. The woman who worked there was memorably rude; I suspect she believed we weren’t from those parts.
My children were cold and grumpy, but I remember middle child looking particularly radiant that day nonetheless. The New Mexico light agrees with her Italian skin and perfectly arched brows, both of which she inherited from her grandmother.
Family trips. Are they always hard? Ours tend to be. The patterns emerge, ruthlessly: first born’s frustration at having a huge intellect and a limited capacity for organization; second child’s hesitancy and tendency toward withdrawal and boredom; the baby… being a baby, which is a divine joy and a tedium all at once. And those are the simple, obvious parts of the domestic canvas. I am not sophisticated or patient enough to draw the intricate shadings of a marriage, particularly one that is long lasting and contains, as most marriages must, such opposing and unflattering elements. My husband, I know, sometimes sees me as a goddess, an ethereal, delicate, and erotic creature from a world he can only visit and never inhabit.
And sometimes, or more often, he sees me as a terrifying demon, one who weighs on him with ugly demands and needs, or, more precisely, needs confused with endless want. Strangely he loves me still, though we are more and more inventing new forms of meeting and understanding one another. Are these forms sustainable? The question, of course, is not even worth asking. One simply moves through life as one can; part of growing up, for me, is seeing, finally and horribly, that existence is not a brilliantly choreographed dance, but more a stumbling injured muddle. Family is a good introduction to this idea, but I think I will forever secretly yearn to be a 13 year old Suzanne Farrell practicing arabesques at the barre.
My son. My beautiful, complicated, brilliant son. Already our relationship is difficult, deeply complicated. For that reason, I love to photograph him. It’s my way of stealing him away, trapping him to my heart. His mind, as his teacher mentioned, is always, always elsewhere, and I am so jealous of that elsewhere: I want to know it, to name it, to be able to pull him away from it. But he is already gone, gone into a cerebral world that I think I too inhabit, but of course on a different plane, in a different space. Even when I’m with him I miss him.
This child analyzes the world in a fully adult capacity. Sometimes speaking with him is an eerie exercise in control (clean up your filthy socks for fuck’s sake, for the ninth time… I could depressingly just be a taperecorder half the day) and trying to keep up with his arguments and observations. My husband has told me he understands the rules of football better than most serious adult fans, and once I found myself struggling to defend myself about the difference between a “liar” and a “lie.”
And vulnerable. And even as he turns, strangely and precociously more and more away from me, I am his foundation, his hidden well. Today at school I saw him flirting, truly flirting with a beautiful young girl. He was so confident, utterly self-contained in a way I think most people never manage to be; it was a moment for me of equal parts pride (look at that child, he’s my child) and poignancy (look at that child, he’s my child, and he’s leaving). After the birth of my stillborn twins, he was my first life, my renewing love. And the landscape of that love is already altering, gaining shadow where there once was only sun.
So all in all it was a good trip. I practiced, I took my children to a wonderful toy store and spoiled them, I fought with my husband, I made up with my husband, and I even had a rich and powerful man attempt to court me at the Four Seasons… but that is another story.