Sunday, October 20, 2013

Unconventional Parenting Methods and the Paintings of Lucian Freud

We awoke early while the moon still hung in the dawn sky over the Colton trees and drove down the old way, through West Linn and Lake Oswego, over the rickety Sellwood Bridge, to dance in the grass at Oaks Park.
As a boy at the Oregon City Nazarene Church, my Dad used to drive the Monday night Skate Bus for the high schoolers to roll around the wood rink on those big mag wheels and leather skins.  Such memories.  Shag carpet walls.  STYX and JOURNEY blasting on Couples Skate under the Disco Ball.  Dad used to do this thing where he'd pretend the brakes were out at the top of the hill by the old Sellwood Church.  He'd lift his hands off the steering wheel and holler as the bus careened toward the Willamette.  Growing up, I never got the joke.  I always thought he saved the day just in the nick of time.
Kinu's American Journal, June 6, 2013-  "At Oaks Park I got to ride the Roller Coaster and the Big Slide.  Daddy put my feet in a sack.  I could see the tops of trees..."
Xian's American Journal, June 6, 2013-  "We drove to Oaks Park and ate swirl ice cream.  Then we played at Hammerlee Park fountain. At home we prepared to sleep out in the tent under the stars.  Daddy taught us star constellations for Orion the hunter (3 stars in the belt) and Cassiopeia (W of stars).  We have flashlights and binoculars to see..."  
Places like Oaks Park are so kitchy!  Carousels of unicorns and fanged sea horses.  Sponge Bob beach blankets and Elephant Ear Donuts... it's a far cry from anything art worthy.
Yet... here we are.  My daughters with swirl cones and me with a camera catching these memories for them.  I often wonder when I am watching them laugh and run and filling their lungs with clean fresh air... am I just conceptualizing them?  Are these moments more for me?
Later we drove back toward Hammerlee Park in West Linn, a place my mother took us to every summer Friday after spending the day shopping with her mother.  This park has changed much over the years, but still remains as a powerful memory of my childhood.
Kinu's American Journal, June 3, 2012-  "I like riding on airplanes.  We are above the clouds..."
Lately I was reading about the paintings of Lucian Freud, the grandson of the famed psychoanalyst.  Looking at his post Second World War paintings of subjects trapped in their own skin, the imperfections so poignantly captured in stark horror... almost grotesque ways...  is a revelation and revulsion.  Freud very famously painted his daughters... to the scandal and disgust of many.
To look at those stark images... one does not envision fatherhood... not in the least!  But isn't in the same inherent desire... to see something inside your own children that is unique... life affirming... staggeringly beautiful... and painfully aware of your own mortality?
Ok... maybe fatherhood just makes me panic sometimes... as if... I know these moments are fleeting and what will I do when they are gone?
That morning in Sellwood, when we took the turn by the old church toward Oaks Park... (that's been turned into a strip club by the way)  I pretended the brakes on the Camry were out of control and lifted my hands off the wheel and hollered loudly as we rolled toward the river.  Daughters half screaming... half laughing... half terrified... half completely assured that I would never let anything bad happen to them. That I would always protect them... they were right.  Dad took control and saved them in just the nick of time.  

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