My sister and I never thought "oh that's art" as we passed it every day on our way to school or violin lessons or, in my case, jump rope. Looking at those three women was like looking at a family photo - as normal and intimate as maybe the way my friends with televisions looked at the Brady Bunch.
The only thought either of us had was "oh, is that Mommy?" We were not talking the rich looking ladies there.
Later, after we stopped calling her Mommy, Florence would bitterly laugh as she recounted how we repeatedly asked her if that was her. She also laughed bitterly about how people told her she looked like Katherine Hepburn. Clearly, she had a couple of looks.
Finding out years later "The Critic" was, in fact, art was like finding out your favorite kindergarten teacher had found the cure for cancer (she didn't). Or that your sweet, funny uncle was a brilliant rocket scientist (he actually was).
And then after that, I found out Weegee had, in fact, given Florence that picture himself. Hard to get the straight story on it - there were several.
- He gave out prints to pretty girls on the lower east side as a matter of course, so it was no big deal.
- He was crazy for Florence and wrote her a love letter which got separated from the photo when she had it reframed.
- The letter was sealed up when she got it framed, and if we unframed it, all would be revealed.
"Take it now," she said.
"No, it's yours and it belongs in your home. Just put a note on the back of the picture."
On the untouched backing, still sealed as it had been when it was reframed probably in the 1950s, there's a pink stickie taped there that says 'This will belong to Claire'.
Sunday Memories: For My Sister's Birthday
Sunday Memories: The Exhaustion of Diaspora: Part Seven