Having two kids 12 years apart (with nobody in between) means I get the best and worst of both age groups at the same time. Today’s photo shows one of the best of the best: paper records of high achievement for each kid. Last week, the Teenager won a Gold Key award from the regional Scholastic Art & Writing competition and Nashville’s Cheekwood Art Museum. I went to the awards ceremony and discovered the whole thing to be a bigger deal than I’d realized. Thankfully, I had bothered to shower that morning. The Toddler accompanied us, and though he was kept fairly quiet with a steady flow of reception cookies, he did sneeze on the mayor. His first political protest.
The Teenager’s winning photograph was taken inside what had, until recently, been the only grocery store within walking distance of a neighborhood of government housing projects and an inner-city school. (When the store shut down, a small stink was raised in the newspaper, where I learned the term “food desert.”) The photography teacher had arranged for the entire class to roam the site as a change of scenery, as an experiment in contrasts.
The Teenager’s selected photo is called Cleaning Lady. It aims down a dark hall of rippling vinyl sheeting toward a woman in a halo of daylight, head lowered, sweeping a floor that no one needs swept.
Change of scenery? Contrast? To privileged eighth-graders bussed to this wreck of a building from a private school a few blocks and a universe away? Yes. Part of me feels guilty that the subject of this photo is providing a convenient addition to my daughter’s college resume. But then again, I know my daughter, and I know she is alive to the shadows and lights of equality and fairness and justice. She took this picture to capture the contrast as a way to advertise, not capitalize.
And now for the Toddler’s contribution. His paper record of high achievement is a daily log from Day Care, upon which is highlighted in yellow marker: “PP in Potty!”