The Family Photograph
By Vona Groarke
In the window of the drawing-room
there is a rush of white as you pass
in which the figure of your husband is,
for a moment, framed. He is watching you.
His father will come, of course,
and, although you had not planned it,
his beard will offset your lace dress,
and always it will seem that you were friends.
All morning, you had prepared the house
and now you have stepped out
to make sure that everything
is in its proper place: the railings whitened,
fresh gravel on the avenue, the glasshouse
crystal when you stand in the courtyard
expecting the carriage to arrive at any moment.
You are pleased with the day, all month it has been warm.
They say it will be one of the hottest summers
the world has ever known.
Today, your son is one year old.
Later, you will try to recall
how he felt in your arms—
the weight of him, the way he turned to you from sleep,
the exact moment when you knew he would cry
and the photograph be lost.
But it is not lost.
You stand, a well-appointed group
with an air of being pleasantly surprised.
You will come to love this photograph
and will remember how, when he had finished,
you invited the photographer inside
and how, in celebration of the day,
you drank a toast to him, and summer-time.
To finish up our week of doctor appointments, on Friday morning I took my kids to the ophthalmologist! We have been kept waiting in that office for nearly an hour in the past, so I was pleasantly surprised when we were called back almost immediately, and neither son's eyesight had changed (Daniel still needs corrective lenses, Adam does not). All was going well until Daniel asked about getting contacts, and we were told that he would need an hour-long fitting appointment...which could only be offered at 4 in the afternoon, when he will have driver's ed for the next two weeks, after which we'll be out of town for a week, then the doctor will be out of town. I think it is time to leave the pediatric ophthalmologist and take him to my doctor in the hope of a more accommodating schedule.
I dropped the kids off at home, had a quick lunch, and went to meet gblvr who had taken the day off for her birthday so that we could see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two. (The kids were invited but they are seeing it 1) with us in IMAX on Sunday and 2) with friends whenever the friends get their schedules/transportation organized.) I have seen the previous six HP films with gblvr so I was very excited to get to see this one with her. I enjoyed it far more than I enjoyed the book, though not as much as I enjoyed Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix...which has largely to do with the substance of the story, not with the directing or performances, all of which are quite satisfactory for what it is (and in some cases quite superlative).
I know it is unpopular to admit that one prefers the films to the books and treated as if this is anti-intellectual or something, but I have no shame in this regard. The worst of the sexism of the books has been diminished; Ginny's part is comparatively larger, she talks instead of wafting around while Harry gazes at her, and the nightmare that is Tonks and Lupin's marriage has largely been trimmed away. Plus some of the sequencing that gave me whiplash, like how Harry goes from Hogsmeade to Hogwarts to the Shrieking Shack to Hogwarts to the Forest, seems to flow more easily in the cinematic adaptation. I even have less trouble believing in Ron/Hermione as a couple in the film, though I am sorry that Ron's avowal of her politics doesn't precede their big kiss. You all probably know that I did not weep reading the book, and though I thought certain scenes in the movie might make me cry, the closest I came was seeing the Weasley family after Fred's death; there was no gut-wrenching moment for me like Amos Diggory screaming for his son in Goblet of Fire.
I know that, as a good fangirl, I'm supposed to cry for Snape, but I felt the same distance from his death in the movie as I did in the book despite Rickman's admittedly wonderful performance. The scenario feels so contrived, and he goes down with so little struggle, and the connection between him and Harry even as he practically dies in Harry's arms, after Harry is pressed up against the back of the wall while Nagini attacks, feels so muddied with Saint Lily the Dead hovering between them. I hate that Snape's last words to Harry are all about Lily, not one single instance of appreciating Harry in his own right. It poisons how I feel about the Pensieve scene, even though that's magnificently done, a combination of new material (with those lovely magical tricks with leaves and flowers) and clips from the previous films. Now he can go join his precious Lily in death, which all the speeches about not feeling sorry for the dead combined with Harry's miraculous un-death kind of reduces as a tragedy anyway. I felt sorrier for Remus, even though he, too, gets to go be with his buddies beyond the grave (whom he always loved more than his wife, and when did Wormtail die, anyway -- I thought he was only knocked out in Part One?).
Anyway, I adored the first shot of Snape dark against the sky and then pale against the castle nearly as much as I adored his transforming and flying through the window, and I loved pretty much every Lucius Malfoy scene -- Voldemort asking him how he lives with himself, the Malfoys slinking away with their tails between their legs without waiting to see who was going to win! I also loved the Gringott's dragon's escape, how much Aberforth we were given to understand in a very few minutes (great casting, and Helena Ravenclaw as well, I was unspoiled for both), Molly Weasley performing magic equal to any of the Hogwarts professors, McGonagall jumping in to take charge at the first opportunity when it wouldn't get students tortured, and the way Voldemort turned to ashes though I am ambivalent that there was no crowd there to witness it. And I wish the epilogue had been after the credits so I could walk out on it/not watch it on DVD more easily, heh.
The rest of my day involved posting my review of "The Slaver Weapon, having dinner with my parents (at which Adam said that if my mother was a meme, she'd be Technologically Impaired Duck, heh), catching up on Warehouse 13 ("Come on, Mika! If you were looking for an artifact about football or porn I'd help you!"), and watching the second episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, which once again held my interest and had these characters who sort of reminded me of characters on a TV show I liked a lot once, but it felt rather like the last two seasons of X-Files did to me, like something fully detachable and more interesting intellectually than in any way emotionally touching except at moments when it enraged me (like when Rhys and the baby were torn away from Gwen and after a few tears she was back to being all happy to be back with Jack).
A few more photos of the battlefields around Fredericksburg, including Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Courthouse:
A monument erected near Chancellorsville where Stonewall Jackson was shot by his own men.
Here is one of the cannons that remains at Chancellorsville, though the house that was on the estate is long gone.
The Wilderness has changed...now there are trees where there were none during the battle, and no trees where there was forest then.
And there are many daddy long-legs in the information booths that have been put up at various historical markers.
This Bible, belonging to a Southern family, was taken by a Union soldier during the conflict.
Markers at the Bloody Angle from the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House pay tribute to the more than 17,000 men who fell there.
The earthworks have been kept much as they were to reflect the topography of a battle that had nearly 32,000 casualties.