Friday, March 10, 2006

Dressing Naked Walls

I called Cheremoya this morning to confirm our shoot. It lifted my heart when she told me her kids were waiting by the door for me.

I met Cheremoya a couple weeks ago.

It was a warm afternoon when Cheremoya walked into the lobby with her three young children. They followed her like ducklings in a row and when she told them to sit, they did quietly. She was filling out community service paperwork, so she hardly looked up when I began talking to Bobo, her two-year-old son. Her other two daughters began asking me questions and I discovered that her children were not only well-behaved, but smart and articulate. I would have sat all afternoon with her children, but she said they had to leave.

Not wanting the opportunity to pass me by, I explained that I wanted to photograph her children. She was flattered as I explained how I believed her children’s personalities would transcend the lens and speak volumes. We exchanged numbers and chose a date to shoot.

Today was the shoot.

Now, I realize that in order to qualify for community service in California—and not pay a traffic ticket—a person’s financial situation must be bleak. When I pulled up to Cheremoya’s apartment, I realized she wasn’t an exception to the rule. Located in the outskirts of East Los Angeles, the olive green apartment building achingly stood off a main street. I climbed the flight of steps to her apartment and when I pushed the unlit doorbell, birds chirped instead of bells ringing.

I heard laughter on the other side of the door. Cheering almost. Cheremoya invited me in and the kids hugged my legs before I even stepped into the small living room. All three of them were talking at once and I tried in vain to keep up. Mommy took me out of school early. I watched Barney this morning. Oooh, can I touch your camera? Did you miss us? Take a picture of me. No, me.

Cheremoya gently calmed the children. The kids told me there was a playground nearby, so I excitedly agreed that we needed to ride the slide. One by one, Cheremoya put sweaters on the kids and off we went.

I tried catching candid moments, but whenever the camera was nearby, Bri immediately posed. Her right hand behind her head, her left arm on her hip, standing contraposto. I put the camera down and ran around with them for a while. They needed to relax.

During one of our breaks from ‘tag’, I learned that Daddy worked night-shifts and Mommy got hurt at work, so she stays home. I also learned that their older brother works at “Jack-in-the-Box” after school and don’t get home till real late.

My heart broke for these kids.

When we returned to the apartment, I realized that the white walls were blank. There were a few small frames scattered on the wall with snapshot photos cut awkwardly to fit in them. That’s when I decided. I’m going to do whatever I can provide a series of pictures to dress the naked walls. I’m praying that the pictures come out better than I can imagine. Not for me, but for Cheremoya and her babies.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Christina said...

Still praying for your mom and family! I hope you don't get tired of me going back and commenting on all the things I didn't comment on before. I hadn't planned to, but this post made me cry all over again. As a Spanish interpreter, I come in contact with soooo many families like the one you describe in this post. I took photos of my pastor's kids along with 2 little Mexican friends from a family "adopted" by my pastor's family through a school program. I gave the kids a copy of a printed photo, not thinking it was anything special....well, when I went to their house the next time, that little 4 x 6 snapshot was sitting (unframed) in a place of honor on a shelf. Their mom was so excited, and I was so humbled.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Connie M. Chung said...

hi jasmine.

i can't write as well as you. i wish i could. no matter how hard i rack my brain, words as eloquent as yours don't seem to make their way out.

this post is so humbling.

how did they turn out?

2:21 AM  
Blogger Betzography said...

speechless

11:07 AM  

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