I didn’t always love Keith Aldridge. Well, at least not how I loved him now. Not this all-powerful, all-consuming, all-I-can-think-about kind of love. Oh no. Up until that moment at L’Elefante, I didn’t even think I was capable of feeling those kinds of emotions for another human. I never understood why I felt this way because I have been surrounded by people who had experienced love my whole life. Even if it did take a while for them to get there.
Take my mother, Nadine, for example. Before I came along, she was a photographer for the magazine Global Artists, a job that gave her the opportunity to be in a different country every week. My mom was, and still is, ravishingly beautiful: pale skin, full lips, grey eyes and long dark-brown hair. Her beauty mixed with her frequently used passport equaled numerous love affairs with various artists. With every stamp in her passport came a new handsome man who fell for my mother the second she walked into the room with her camera around her slender neck. There was Diego, the abstract artist from Seville; Alain, the photographer from Paris who took black-and-white pictures of people throwing trash into the Seine; Okito, the Japanese performance artist from Tokyo who once lit his hair on fire; and Axel, an English painter who was working on a series of interpretations of Las Meninas that rivaled Picasso’s. There are more, of course, and some I imagine my mother will never tell me about. Keith and I usually were able to get some stories out of her after she’d had a few glasses of white wine. I told her that one of these days she should write a book on her escapades. She had looked at me from the floor pillow where she was sitting, barefoot and balancing her practically empty wine glass on her knee, and said simply, “Why would I want to give anyone the opportunity to rival my brilliance?”
But that was just my mother.
I was conceived somewhere between Dublin and Siena. Most people who grow up without knowing who their biological father is complain about feeling incomplete or out of touch with their true selves. They spend years on a therapist’s couch wondering who this man was and whether or not they were like him. It never bothered me. My mother had enough love to go around.
I traveled with my mother around the world, taking pictures of art and visiting far away lands. Even though most of those memories are fuzzy, they evoke an intense sense of happiness and freedom. I can still remember the spicy smell of India and how my first pink macaron in France tasted. I believe I was meant to be an artist since birth. I mean, come on, I was bread from two of them.
A few weeks after my 6th birthday, which we spent in Luxembourg, my mother decided I needed stability. I also needed to begin "real" school. So she took a job as a senior curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and we settled into Massachusetts. It was only 6 months later that she met Stuart Roderick, a professor of the history of art and architecture at Harvard. A tall, white haired, ruggedly handsome academic, Stuart was immediately infatuated with my mother. They were married a year later. My mother became Nadine Roderick and I got my father figure.
It was around this time that I met my Keithy.