Jack’s mom died this week. We hadn’t seen her for a while but we talked to her all the time — she loved the phone, loved to talk, she would gladly spend hours working over any little tidbit of news, gossip, or family history you gave her, thoroughly picking it apart until she was satisfied she understood it from every angle and was as joyful, angry, or bored with it as you were. So when Jack’s brother called with the news, it really felt as though a huge part of our world had been silenced in a profound way. Her voice is just gone.
I don’t think I posted about Barbara very much — a quick search yielded this weird little scene, and this one has a photo of her with the baby version of my husband — though I could have written whatever I wanted because she never owned a computer and no one on her side of the family seemed to notice what I was doing on the Internet. Because OH MY GOD THE STORIES about Barbara’s life. You can’t even imagine, I should just interview everyone who’s still alive and write a novel about her because no one would believe it if I called it nonfiction.
For now, I’ll just show you this.
Lillian Bassman was a fashion photographer famous for “furtive eroticism,” and Jack’s mom modeled for her occasionally. (Barbara made a living as a lingerie model both before and after Jack and his brother were born, which is a testament to her amazing genetics, as well as to having children when you’re 19/20 years old.) There are photos of Barbara floating around in a negligée; burying her nose in a huge, luscious rose while wearing a lacy black merry widow; or just standing there looking more relaxed than you’d imagine it was possible to be if you wearing a garment you needed at least two people to get you into.
I don’t know who’s going to get what photos — Jack and his sisters are down in Palm Springs right now going through her house and figuring out what will go where — but last year a book of Bassman’s photos came out and Barbara sent us a copy. She was proud of being included in the collection.
That was Barbara before she married Jack’s dad, walking around Manhattan looking like Grace Kelly’s little sister. I hope Jack manages to get the photo of her and Mickey Mantle at the Copacabana, or at least make a copy. That shit is historic.
Glamorous as she had been, she also loved her role as Jackson’s grandmother. A holiday never, ever went by without a card with $20 in it (in small bills, so Jackson wouldn’t spend it all at once), and I mean every holiday. Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s, birthday, St. Patrick’s day, Halloween. If we’d been slightly less pagan she would have sent cards for Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, and Passover, too, like Jackson’s cousins got every year.
I’ll talk with Jack and see what he’d feel comfortable with me sharing on the Internet, but for now I’ll just leave it at this: she is deeply missed.