For the next few Wednesdays in Lent, I’ll be talking about Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book “Love Idol,” which releases on April 1, 2014.
Take a minute and look at this photo Mark Osler took and posted for Ash Wednesday: http://www.oslersrazor.blogspot.com/2014/03/lent-begins.html#links.
I adore this photo — so much that it’s the subject of my post.
Through the windows, we see winter. (Osler lives in Minnesota.) Jennifer Dukes Lee, who lives in Iowa, wrote on her blog on Ash Wednesday, “I won’t be able to look at my reflection until the snow melts, until the daffodils bloom.”
Our Ash Wednesday did not include snow, but it was cold and gray. With Lent so late this year, we may be past the bluebonnets by the time Easter comes. It all depends. You never can tell with wildflowers.
Osler’s photo features three people: a man, a preteen-ish boy and a teenager-ish girl. I don’t know if they’re a family, but let’s pretend they are.
We can’t see their faces well. The dad has his back to us, hands in the pockets of his jeans. He’s looking out at winter, probably waiting for the Ash Wednesday service to begin. The teenage girl — I’m sure she’s a teenager because of her hair and because she’s wearing a sleeveless shirt on a snowy day — is looking down. You can see the boy’s face a little. He looks very middle-school-ish, when the body grows tall faster than it can keep on weight, so all the clothes look huge, especially sweatshirts, like he is wearing. He seems to fiddling with the railing. No cellphones in sight.
The scene is quiet. We don’t know anything about how these three people feel about each other. They could be filled with love, yet bored, or filled with hatred. Who knows? They are together, waiting.
Someone somewhere told me to look at the center of any piece of art. With the rectangular windows, the center of this photo almost but not quite narrows on the boy. He’s standing slightly apart from the dad and the girl but not so much apart that you’d notice.
Where is the mom?
Is she on her way and they’re waiting for her? Is she working during the service? Is she working in the service? Is she sick in bed? Is she gone?
Even when a mother is not present, her absence is its own kind of presence. If you have a family without a father, you have America. If you have a family without a mother, you have a Disney movie.
For Jennifer’s Love Idol movement, I’m contemplating parenting as an idol. Frankly, an idol is too small for what motherhood is. I am part of my family’s picture whether I’m in the actual picture or not, whether I’m doing a good job or not, whether I’m down with a migraine or doing an interview in Waco or sitting in the audience at the theater. Motherhood is so big that it’s there even when it isn’t.
“If someone challenges our parenting today, what does it mean?” Jennifer writes in Love Idol, “Very little.”
She’s right. But I needed this photo to believe her.