A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Asymptotes & Rebecca Grows Up -No!
Sunday, August 19, 2007

You find it hard to forgive those who, early in life, have come to enjoy the advantages which go with maturity. Aside from any other consideration, why don't you put into the balance the long spring enjoyed by a youth who matured late.

Markings -Dag Hammarskjöld

When Rosemary and I travel with Rebecca we glory at the fact that she is a little girl. She has tantrums (berrinches). She cries. But then she asks questions that surprise and sometimes trouble us. When she misbehaves, by forgetting her camera or some article of clothing in a restaurant, I find myself telling her (and I should know better) that she has to be more responsible. When I do this I remember the above quote.

Rebecca and I have a favourite game, quite painful in Mexico with the ubiquity of old VW beetles. When one passes by, the first person to say, "White (depending on its colour) punchbuggyy, no returns," has the right to punch the other person. We punched each other with gusto when we rode the buses or the calesa (horse-driven carriage) in Mérida.

Would it not be nice if she were never to grow up? I think of Oskar Matzerath from Günter Grass' The Tin Drum. But, alas, Rebecca was 10 on Friday.

Besides my memory of Rebecca as a child I have my photographs of her that record this inevitable transition. It reminds me of our ploy to waste time in Brother Edwin Reggio's (seen here with Rebecca during our recent trip to Austin, Texas) religion class so many years ago. We would ask him if stealing a thousand dollars was a mortal sin. He was affirmative to this.

Then we asked him if stealing one cent was a mortal sin. He told us it was a venial sin. Then we would go up from one cent to one dollar and go down, slowly from one thousand to one hundred. We had not yet been taught the concept of the asymptote (the calculus and limits were some years away). We wanted to know at what point, in dollars and cents, a venial sin was transformed into a mortal one.

Photographers in the 19th century were obsessed with the idea of pointing their camera at a dying person's face to try to capture that moment between life and death, that moment when the soul goes from here to there.

I look at my photographs of Rebecca in the same way. In which one is she no longer the child?


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