“Hold tight, wait till the party’s over …” Self-portrait, Su Leslie, 1985.
1985. A flat in Grey Lynn. There are six of us; all in our 20s and a mix of students and recently-minted teachers. It’s a sociable flat, into which friends, neighbours and extended family members are welcomed. We eat together most nights and hang out at the weekends; going to movies, concerts, parties, nightclubs. I’m meant to be writing a Master’s thesis, but realise part way through the year that I find the topic monumentally boring. The effort I should make trying to resolve this problem is instead diverted into listening to music and experiments in film-making.
Sometime in that year, “the flat” goes to see the movie Stop Making Sense. We’ve been listening to Talking Heads and the related band Tom Tom Club, and the film doesn’t disappoint.
I love all the songs from that album, so I guess there is no particular significance in my choice of Burning Down the House to share as part of 30 Days, 30 Songs, a challenge devised by Sarah at Art Expedition. You can see her latest song choice here.
The last family holiday before the boy-child took wing. The path to Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany, 2015. Image: Su Leslie
“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
Life is full of journeys. Twenty one years ago, the Big T and I had just set out on the longest and most significant voyage of our lives — nurturing the embryo that would become our son. It’s a journey filled with memories that refresh and strengthen as we share new moments together.
“Feature wall”? Photo-montage with two shots of the same scene. Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Fused and Pixlr.
When my latest experiment — with a shot of branches reflected in a puddle — morphed into an abstract pattern that reminded me of a wallpaper design, I couldn’t help playing some more.
Springtime. One minute new buds, the next rain and bough-shaking winds. Photo-montage of recent images; edited with Snapseed, Fused and Stackables. Images: Su Leslie, 2016
Adding a second image, of some blossom in bud, stirred memories of the living room of a childhood home which had a feature wall covered with paper of a bold design overlaid on the wallpaper which hung on the remaining walls.
Old wallpaper? Same design in a different colour — or perhaps faded with age. Photo-montage with recent images. Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed, Fused, Stackables and Pixlr.
Even though this design isn’t that which adorned our long-ago living room, I still feel my mind prickling with the inhaled dust of old memories.
The Big T and our boy-child, Jan 1999 on the beloved Katana. Image: Su Leslie
Before you know it! Re-creating the shot isn’t as easy when the boy-child is almost as tall as his father, and less willing to play “hands on head”. Image: Su Leslie, 2016
Nothing makes me quite so aware of time passing as looking at old photos; especially photos of my child. Is it really almost 18 years since I give birth to a tiny, skinny boy with a shock of red hair? Has 17 years truly passed since we first sat him on his dad’s motorbike?
The answers of course are “yes, and “yes”.
The boy-child will be 18 in a few weeks. He is to all intents and purposes an adult. He has a job he loves, owns a car he bought with his own savings (NOT a motorbike — he never really got bike-fever thankfully), and is proving to be a level-headed, generous, compassionate and independent human being.
In the Great Clean-Out that is part of the preparation for selling our house, I’ve found boxes and boxes of the boy-child’s stuff; toys, books, games, keepsakes. And what I’ve noticed is that those objects which hold the strongest memories for me are not the most recent acquisitions, but those from the very beginning of our life as a family, when time stretched in ways we’d never imagined, and our child’s age was measured in days and weeks, rather than years.
How can it be that I can recall every hour of his first few days, and yet 18 years have flown by?
Snapshot of an education. Texts from some of my university courses. Image: Su Leslie, 2016
The Great Clean-Out continues. The latest project has been to sort the text books I packed away in the in-laws shed when the Big T and I went to England in 1991.
This pile brought back memories of warm spring days spent listening to music and “swotting” for an exam on Feminist Theory.
Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin’s Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves may have lacked the intellectual rigor of the post-structuralist feminists in whose articles and papers I struggled to find enlightenment and pithy soundbites to impress the examiners, but it’s simple optimism brought joy to my heart. Still does.