Noticing Fathers and Their Children

Last Saturday I took the bus from my home in northeastern Pennsylvania into New York City to meet my friend Eugene Hughes, who was in town for a few days from London to teach a workshop. As I walked from the subway to the restaurant where we were meeting for brunch, my attention was drawn several times to fathers out and about with their children: a father and two little kids looking in the window of a toystore; a father and daughter, about 9 years old, having an animated conversation about their dog; a father pushing an infant in a stroller. My own father was a workaholic and alcoholic and I never got that kind of time with him, and I am always so touched when I see a father ¬†and his daughter or son casually and comfortably enjoying each other’s company.

Eugene and I had brunch on the Upper West Side, then walked across the park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the David Hockney retrospective. On the way, even as Eugene and I talked intensely, I noticed and admired more fathers and children.

We arrived at the Met and made our way to the exhibition. And then, as I was looking at one of Hockney’s more recent paintings, a large Yorkshire landscape painted on six canvases, the subject of my attention boomeranged back to me! A father and his son, aged about 13, who had also been looking at the painting, approached me.

The father wanted to know if they could ask me a question. Of course, I said. He said that he and his son were having a discussion about whether Hockney had painted each of the six canvases separately and put them together, or whether he’d painted one whole canvas and then cut it up. The son was of the latter opinion.

Together the three of us studied the painting closely and in silence for a few minutes. I told the son that I thought was right, because the foliage from one panel to another didn’t quite match up. We all considered the painting again, more in unison this time, and agreed. They walked on in one direction and I in another.

All morning I had been touched by fathers and children and then a father and child reached out to touch me directly. Such synchronicity is so sweet.

Photo above: A Closer Wind Tunnel, February-March (2006), by David Hockney, now at th Metropolitan Museum, New York City.

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