Grinning Before the Rosebush
I must begin with a photograph--a color Polaroid of me standing in front of my mother’s rosebushes. It was the spring of 1971. They were in radiant bloom. I was grinning madly with tight curls and surgically aligned bangs. I stood perfectly posed, rigidly, as any good model would. It’s a wonder that the image didn’t betray my hurry—the frantic rush that brought me to that stillness.
My father was a photographer. A real photographer. Not just the kind of photographer that most children believe their fathers to be. My father took pictures professionally. He even took a picture of Bozo the Clown once. I think that proves my point. There were remnants of his work down in the basement. Down in the sealed corner of the basement that we still called the darkroom years after my father had given up on his dreams of being a photographer—an artist who draws with light.
The dark room, sealed off from the rest of the basement, was an ominous place. As my father moved away from photography, the room had become a kind of super-sized tool box. Every wall had something with metal teeth threatening. This imposing reality, combined with the room’s designed intent of sealing out all light, made it a very formidable place for the delicate psyche of a young girl. I would often be asked to go downstairs and grab something that was “in the dark room.” The only light, however, that you could turn on from the safety of the stairs didn’t reach this place of preternatural darkness. The single ceiling light within the room was available to mere mortals by a measly, dangling string. You had to move quickly, drawing upon memory, to find it. I can recall many times of panic when I would stretch my desperate fingers in the general direction of that string, flailing in the dark, wearing myself out. I figured I had at least five seconds or so, maybe six, before the dark would take its toll.
But I was speaking of the frantic hurry that brought me to my curls, my grin, and my pose before my mother’s radiantly blooming rosebushes. That my father was a photographer, a serious one, and that he didn’t take kindly to waiting around for his subjects. He had situated his tripod, set his shutter speed, and thoughtfully arranged the balance of his photographic composition. All that was lacking for this photoshoot was one five-year old girl. Her name was Laura. So he called for her in a voice that only a five year old truly understands. Hearing her father, the photographer, demand her presence before the camera, she did not hesitate to appear—with her curls, her bangs, and an exceedingly broad grin. Wearing nothing but her underwear.
About the Author: Laura Lovasz is a writer and educator from Detroit. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Indiana University. She spends a great deal of time contemplating the genius of Henry Ford and earnestly awaits the return of her cat, Sparkles.