I used to watch my son and his friends trying out their ideas about being a grown-up.The boys delighted in costumes, pretending to be knights, caped crusaders, cowboys, anything heroic.
The boys had their noses pressed up against the glass of adulthood, peering at a world they dreamed of entering soon.Their superhero selves could save the day, and helped them deal with the anxiety of being small in a world that values power.It also allowed them to experience the future.
Soon, so soon, the boys grow up, join teams, or get jobs, and the childish costumes with the fake muscles stay in the toy box.They move on to sports uniforms, or fashion, or other ways of presenting themselves that reflect their chosen tribes.But for a few fleeting years, they feel like young gods, who want to be seen and heard, while their imaginations run the world.
These images of contemporary American girls reflect deeper themes of age and identity.The girls choose their own way of presenting themselves, how they dress and which doll best represents them from their own collections. Some have many, some have only one, but there is always one doll that they most identify with. Ranging from the homemade to the storebought, they often collect matching outfits for themselves and their doll avatars.
They look at the camera with a self possession and clarity of identity belying their years, on the cusp of adulthood at ages seven to nine, simultaneously innocent, hopeful, and wise.I was never this self aware as a child, and the girls that I encounter in this project astonish me with their presentation.
Sounds of my Childhood
I live in the house I grew up in, up in the hills, among the last of the coyotes, deer, owls. Now my children and my partner and I occupy these rooms, with the dogs at our feet, overlaying the memories. Happiness is finding its way in, and I am finally making peace.
Sometimes though I wake at night to the sounds of my childhood. Coyotes in the cove howling and yipping in the misty bushes, packs hunting, the chilling wails as they close in on a kill, or howling in unison with the occasional siren. They leak into my dreams, along with the buzzing of the thick power lines overhead, which sizzle on foggy nights in a way both ominous and comforting. In the distance there is the low moan of big rigs downshifting on the freeway like far off surf. In summer there are crickets, shockingly loud, a constant roar of love and lust. One or two inevitably get inside, and keep up a lonely rhythmic keening in the den, or the corner of the fireplace, hoping to find a connection.
It takes me a minute to come back to the present, for the unconscious to give way to the conscious, for the dreams to fade, for the present to overlay the past.
The moon is bright tonight, a silvery light that shows patterns both familiar and unrecognizable on the wall. I can’t make out colors, but it is bright enough to make me restless. I get a glass of water, just for some reason to walk the length of the house, to look around. My dog dutifully pads after me, sleepily certain that there is a good reason for me to be up. There is an owl hooting somewhere soft and mournful. And then, eventually, another.