If I Knew Then

While at Casa Mom last week I got the chance to go through a bunch of old pictures. Some were my own blurry/finger-over-shutter photos which hinted at my current digital camera philosophy of “if it’s worth taking one picture of it’s worth taking a dozen more from slightly different but no more interesting angles.” Some were inherited and thus slightly higher quality photos that friends had given me. But the bulk of them were pictures my parents, usually my dad, took. I think Daddy had the same disregard for film price as I did because for every money shot that made it into the album there were a dozen more test shots of trees or deer or the curtains. I’ve inherited a lot of his habits, I think. Like my dad I’m not especially visually gifted, but I like to play around. I know what I want to capture, I’m just not exactly sure how to go about doing it, which may explain why I took twelve shots and two videos of (in my defense, impressively large) waves at Fort Point last week. What’s fascinating to me is the point of view, the glimpse into the mind of the photographer. When I look at my dad’s photos I see the world as he saw it. I see his endless landscape photos as an attempt to capture the enormity of nature. I see his sneaky long-lens candid photos as trying to preserve a happy family moment, even if it’s just me and Yean sitting at a picnic table eating chips.

My dad did manage to stumble upon quite a few gems, which got pasted into the photo album along with his dorky puns and commentary. One of my favorites is the one above, which is possibly the only evidence that I had any interest in cooking as a child. I love the look of pure concentration on my face, not to mention my gigantor forehead. In my more wistful moments I wonder if my dad had any idea I’d grow up into a professional baker. I see this picture and I think maybe he was trying to capture my independence, my tactile skills. But of course, he probably didn’t. When that photo was taken I think I wanted to become a botanist (because my grandma let me help her weed the garden) and when he died in 2000 I think I was still set on “comic book writer/artist/professional anime watcher phD.” And peanut butter toast is hardly advanced cooking.

So I think a lot about my dad, and my relationship to food, and how the one is shaped by the other. And it’s easy now to look back and make the connections, because they’re there and because it feels good to ground myself in my past. But for the life of me I can’t remember exactly why I decided to go to cooking school. It’s like the idea was just there all along and when the time came to make plans I just added it to the queue. And really, it’s worked out pretty well. But considering the other things I wanted to be in high school (filmmaker, artist, accountant, environmental world-saver, and of course paperback writer) it’s hard to reconcile the person I am now with the person I thought I’d become. The other layer of weird is that most people in my graduating class had absolutely no idea what they wanted to do with their lives and are just now really starting to figure it out.

But I really, really want to see the little baker in childhood me, in part because I’ve always been a person who defines herself by what she does and in part because I want the father I remember from when I was 14 to absolutely know the woman I am at 24. There’s this phantom Dad that hovers over my life nodding approvingly at my decisions and then there’s the reality, which is that I was very young when he died. And that’s rough.

But there’s another reality that I’m coming to accept, which is that I could have become any one of those things (accountant? really? And didn’t I fail biology?) and I would have been happy. And that, at least, is something I know he knew. And the knowing he knew is enough, nowadays.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “If I Knew Then

  1. I’m giggling over the thought of you becoming an accountant. Because you Asian.

    In addition, that’s some massive jar of peanut butter there, dude.

    • Emmy

      You know, when I scanned that picture I couldn’t figure out if it was the perspective, or if I was just tiny, or if the jar really was that big. But I think Costco started getting popular around then, so there you go.

      And the accountant thing was my mother’s idea. TYPICAL, AMIRITE?

  2. Every once in a while, I read someone’s something somewhere and I get a little Emmy-related-heartache. Here’s today’s: http://lipstickonyourteeth.blogspot.com/2010/01/mercury-rising.html

    • Emmy

      Holy shit, it’s Martha Stewart AND a your mom joke! I feel the sudden and unbearably intense need to craft with you. Is there such a thing as long-distance crafting? If so, we should do it! Also I totally know what issue that is because she did the terrariums on the show a couple weeks ago with JULIE FRIKKIN ANDREWS (who was surprisingly bad at gardening) and Yean made fun of me for wanting a terrarium and called me a hipster.

  3. Diana

    I always feel a little awkward trying to comment about stuff that involves your dad. I came on to the scene only a few years later and I didn’t have the right stuff to say then either.

    Plus by all accounts your dad was awesome so I can’t relate. >_>
    I can only hope that Mark ends up being as good a dad to James as your dad was to you (and Yean).

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