Sketches from Childhood


My first works: family portraits. Crayon mostly. A burnt sienna series, a periwinkle cycle.

Father a dozen different shades of ghostly. Dark bloodhound pouches under bloodshot eyes. Commissioner of things: the London Stock Exchange, the local cricket league. Himself a great but thwarted batsman—blamed a wicked ankle and an angled wicket. Prone to alternate between brass-buttoned double-breasted suits and utter self-neglect. Umber mustache streaked silver, papers in his attaché unstapled, undeciphered to this day.

Mother a ballroom dancer, radio engineer, believer in broad hats and vermilion scarves. Stopped at one child for the sake of her career, then had a career as fitful as her child. Became a hobbyist. Built luminous-dialed equipment in our den, kept one ear glued to chatter from the Kremlin or from fishing wharves or islands that had lost their longitude— could someone please advise? No clue, she said. Hummed them a long, slow, soothing waltz instead.

A sepia period…I drew our three stiff figures side by side (me labeled ME) in front of the splendid House of Garamond. Balustrades, battlements, portico, koi pond. The pair of chimneys whose designer flues actually gave off smoke in curlicues.