March 3, 2008

I am remembering my grandfather, Giddo Mike. My mother’s father. A wiry man, maybe an inch taller than I am, gentle (to me), gruff and indestructible. He loved gardening and golf. He raised a family in Belize, and then he and my grandmother moved to Orlando when the children were grown.

When I was little he built me a bicycle out of parts and I rode it for years, until I outgrew it. He would pick mangoes and starfruit from his trees for me and my sister. My memories of him are a mix of my own stories and the stories of my parents; my dad, for instance, tells how Giddo didn’t approve of him and stopped speaking to my mother after they were married. Then one day there was a knock on their door, and when they opened it, Giddo stood there with a full bag of groceries in each arm. I was just passing by, he said, and Dad laughs, remembering. It’s a four-hour drive from Orlando to Tallahassee, where we were living, Dad says. I was just passing by.

David and GiddoDavid met Giddo in 2002, in Belize at my cousin’s wedding. My two-year-old son toddled up to Giddo Mike, craned his neck way back, and said, You’re a really tall man, thereby securing himself in his great-grandfather’s good graces forever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone grin so big as Giddo did just then. He took David’s hand and they walked around looking at turtles in the fountain and little blue crabs along the driveway.

My indestructible Giddo passed away peacefully yesterday morning at the age of 88.

As-salamu alaykum, Giddo.


David at SFMOMA

August 5, 2006

David and I have been exploring art lately — I was casting about for weekend classes to sign him up for, and thought that art lessons would be good, and then realized (duh) I’m a certified teacher in the subject and why shell out bucks so someone else can have the fun? This is why I went into teaching in the first place, lo these many years ago: to share the “aha!” moments with a child I love.

We started with Georgia O’Keeffe and Matisse. We read books about them first (I recommend the Getting to Know series by Mike Venezia), and then we talked about some of their works using my extensive library of art books. That was the point at which I realized exactly where all my money went while I was in college. It really is a nice collection. We went to the grocery store and bought large flowers that interested us — we each picked out one bunch — and then brought them home and drew them close up, like Georgia O’Keeffe. Tomorrow we will be drawing with scissors like Matisse.

This morning David, Craig and I made the trip to the city and visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They have Femme au Chapeau, which is one of the images from the Venezia book, and I wanted David to see it. It could not have been a more perfect moment had it been scripted. We climbed the stairs and turned to the left on the second floor — you can almost see it right from there, but there were people in the way. We moved over toward it, and when a gap opened he saw it and pointed and squeezed my hand and gasped, “That was painted by Henri Matisse!” Why, yes, yes it was. Imagine finding that here.

We talked about how it looked, and how it was bigger than he thought it would be. I had told him the colors would look different than they did in the book. He wasn’t convinced, but that’s okay. Then we wandered through the galleries, looking at whatever interested him. Fountain stopped him for a moment, but he was perfectly ready to accept it as art. “It’s sculpture, Mom.” Yup.

We spent a few minutes in the Koret Visitor Education Center, watching part of a film that talked about Matisse and Picasso and their models.

I have a personal tradition when I visit a museum of choosing a postcard from the gift shop to remind me of one particular work that I enjoyed on that trip. David made his first postcard choice today. He picked Les Valeurs personnelles by Magritte, which is the painting he spent the most time in front of during our visit. Back in the car, he showed me Femme au Chapeau in his Matisse book. He admitted that his favorite part of the visit was the translucent walkway on the fifth floor. Fine by me: he had a favorite part.

A ticket, a postcard, a map, and a blog post — David at SFMOMA.