There is/was an old photograph of my mother with me nestled next to her. In the many moves and changes in my life it has been lost. I don’t remember why it was done but the photo was taken in a studio. I was no more than 5 years old and my Mom in her 20’s. It’s stuck in my mind because we were ‘dressed to the nines,’ not what you’d expect from a family living in a Northeast Philadelphia row house.
My Mom never recognized her beauty, but in this picture it was undeniable. Her curly black hair was coiffed, she wore a grey hounds-tooth jacket over a white blouse and make-up that highlighted her blue eyes. I was a towhead wearing a wide-collared white shirt open at the neck over a navy blue collarless blazer. The photo was in my parents’ bedroom for many years. It was the kind of picture you’d expect to see in an upper class English estate and in that sense worlds apart from our family reality.
The other day I was listening on Youtube to Edith Piaf sing my favorite song from that time. Here it is….
The song brought back to mind the picture with my Mom. I couldn’t be little Lord Fauntleroy in Philly’s Oxford Circle. Well I could have been, but my Dad came home from WWII and wasn’t buying it. He didn’t like what he saw in the alley one day and taught me to box at 6 years old. Then he said, “Pick a fight with the guy who’s the toughest kid on the block.”
By the time I was in my 20’s I was a rugby-playing ex-soldier with bad memories of fights where they had to pull me off the other guy. The little boy struggling with getting Mom’s 33 1/3 RPM vinyl placed on the turntable had become a product of the American Dream/Nightmare.
The most vivid Super Bowl 50 memory I have is the shot of the soldiers in Afghanistan flashed on TV screens before the game. We are the only country I know of that blatantly mixes military with sport. I was a soldier, my Dad was a soldier. I have nothing against soldiers, but I am against the idea of glorifying what we did or what is being done now.
There was a time when I thought living in the USA was life with a rosy hue – La Vie en Rose. Life still has a rosy hue but my government and military add the color of blood more than I think is necessary.
Edith dedicated one of her recordings to the French Foreign Legion. At the time of the recording, France was engaged in a military conflict, the Algerian War (1954–1962). This song has now become part of the French Foreign Legion heritage and is sung when they are on parade…
Unlike Edith and the soldiers of the FFL I do have regrets. I regret the loss of the photo of my Mom and the boy who struggled with Edith’s records. I also regret that it took me a long time to regain the innocence of that boy. I am thankful that I have. Overall my thanks for life in the USA outweigh my regrets. But like Mosa Allison sings here i’m gettin’ there…