I love colonial houses. There’s just something about their colonnaded porches, their imposing brick facades, their Greek architectural accents. They are inextricably linked to history–I can actually picture Mrs. Washingtons dotting about in their kitchens and living rooms, herding children and fretting over soon-to-arrive company. I think I am one of them.
But what I love more than colonial houses are the people who live in them. It’s somehow bizarre to see a Land Rover pull out of the stretched driveway of a colonial mansion in miniature. It has become a mark of Eastern wealth, with a convenient touch of idealized history, but how authentic is it? While envisioning Martha in her element, I am fascinated by the idea that today, there is something more like an Ina Garten inside those walls, baking up a hundred blueberry scones or directing a small army of camera men. The juxtaposition makes me pause, dreaming of a thousand different wives, husbands, mothers, sons, fathers, and daughters who are products of both their own age, and an age hundreds of years old. They are all so dramatically different, but they all have sipped a tea or two on the same pillared porch. Who are these people and what makes them tick?
As regular readers of my writing will likely attest, my strength lies less with plot lines and riveting stories, and more with the drawing of characters–real and fictional. Instead of fighting this, I’ve decided to try a series of posts entitled “American Portraits,” which will be, in essence, snapshots of individuals I see day-to-day and the qualities that make them who they are. These will be short profiles, and intended to ignite conversation and thinking–as much for myself as my readers.
These portraits are also intended to, ideally, bridge the gap between stereotypes and reality. There’s no grand ambition here–only that a few new perspectives might engender a different outlook. For a country so stuck on segregation of every kind, it is also keen on seeing itself as accepting. Perhaps we should take another look at ourselves.
Think of it this way: Imagine a vociferous rain storm, beating down on you. When you first step into it–on the way to the store, to pick up the kids, to run an errand–you painstakingly try to avoid getting soaked, getting your hair shaggy and wet, covering your new $60 shoes with mud. But after a while, the effort fades and you give in to the sweet taste of rain. You begin to relish it, and become a happy-go-lucky kid, splashing through big puddles and shaking your mane in the downpour. You embrace the wet and the muddy.
It’s time for all of us to embrace the wet and muddy. And so it begins–with the colorful, stark, uncensored, politically incorrect litany of American Portraits.