Updated: Jan 16
My weekly photo assignment was supposed to be "Precious Objects: Make Them Art." But I got three objects into the list and realized that every one referenced my parents. The internal editors scoffed and muttered "boring" and "is that ALL you have to write about these days" and one of them laughed at me for calling my photos art and then they marched off to hatch diabolical distractions and dissuade me from pursuing the project and guess what? They succeeded. DAMN THEM TO HELL.
I did pick up my camera to photograph the object that inspired the project to begin with: a lemon squeezer. Not just any lemon squeezer but one my mom bought for me about twenty years ago. It was broken--the bar that clasped the halves had snapped--and it sat cleaved in two on the counter for months while I considered bending a nail.
When Mom and Dad traveled to Brooklyn for a visit one summer, she decided I needed a lemon squeezer. (Dispenser of swift and decisive judgments that sometimes only she understood.) The problem was, the kitchen store was several blocks from my apartment and she wasn't in the habit of walking. She was more in the habit of lying on the sofa.
I joke that I come from a long proud line of crazy, but it was no joke when Mom battled depression. And it really was a battle, no shit. She tried. They tried. Dad had retired early with dreams of travel. Ever the engineer, he kept a tidy penciled log of her daily moods in a spiral notebook: Up. Down. Down. Down. Can't get up. Their GP casually diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and sent her to a psychopharmacologist to find the right chemical cocktail: one antidepressant that turned into another and another over years, stabs in the dark interspersed by inertia and hallucination and paranoia and tears and panicked phone calls about walking into the ocean because she couldn't swim.
There were also ups. And they would do what they could in those windows. Like come to Brooklyn.
And Mom could take her daughter to a kitchen store, or her daughter could take her to the kitchen store, and walk behind her on narrow sidewalks, and watch her clenching her fists.
Finally, I bought a lemon-and-lime-colored squeezer from Stop & Shop that hefted nearly as pleasingly as the old one. I knew the nail wouldn't be any good, anyway.
But now I have to keep the old one. Or at least the half of it with holes.