Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sepia Saturday 178: My pea brain

 This week Sepia Saturday is paying tribute to the human face. The selected picture comes from the collection at George Eastman House which is featured on Flickr Commons. It is listed simple as "Woman's Face" and dates from somewhere around 1915.

My Aunt Jeanne's image came to mind when I saw this sad face on the SS prompt this week.  I remember a very dark, very sad picture of her, but when I finally found it, I was surprised to see that my aunt didn't look sad at all!
Jeanne Fortier Comeault

Funny, the way a few decades can distort memory. The circumstances of Jeanne's death were very sad - she was only 32, her death was sudden (related to an asthma attack) and she had two young sons left motherless. Because my memories of her death are so sad I believe my tiny and unreliable brain erased the small smile from her face and ringed her happy eyes with shadows and uncertainty. This is the picture they used on her obituary.

The day she died, I was seven years old, disobeying my mother's instruction to stay out of the garden; instead I was merrily picking sun-warmed peas off the vine and eating them with great relish. My mother suddenly came out the back door, screen door slamming, tears streaming down her face. She picked me up and sobbing, told me my Aunt Jeanne had died.  Mother left me in the garden and shortly afterward, I was violently sick to my stomach.  I couldn't eat peas for 50 years. The aroma would make me wretch, so I stayed as far away as possible from them. Guilt and shock had wormed their way into some deep spot in my subconscious and anchored there, I thought, for the duration.

My long, long pea-less spell finally ended at an event in Napa at the Culinary Institute of America where, as part of a tasting session, I was presented with a plate of lightly steamed fresh peas tossed in butter and freshly chopped tarragon.  One of the best things I've ever eaten. Icy cold prosecco was involved with that tasting session; perhaps it contributed to my cure?

And now this Sepia Saturday exercise. Cheap therapy isn't it?

Thinking about the subject of memorable female portraits, two favorite images kept floating in and out of my brain during the week. Vermeer's The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

...and the ultra famous photo of the Afghan girl which appeared on the cover of National Geographic
June, 1985.

Steve McCurry, National Geographic
And the photo of the same girl, Sharbat Gula, taken in 2002 when her age was estimated as 28-30.

Steve McCurry, National Geographic

1 comment:

  1. Hi Helen - I'm Evlyn Fortier's daughter, Sarah. I really enjoy looking at your blog, and this entry in particular was of interest to me. The photo of Aunt Jeanne caught my eye. My mother told me that my middle name, Jean, came from her Aunt, but I don't believe I've ever seen a photo of her. Thanks for posting it here!