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My Bet With Max

So, I am working on a kind of… um… call it an art installation.

For Max’s upcoming birthday.

Of course, I’ll give him money, too, ‘cause that’s what offspring really want – money! – but for years now, I’ve had this project in the back of my mind that commemorates a particular event in Max’s and my relationship.


I was a hippie Mommy, so I absolutely refused to take child support from Bill.

Hey! It made sense at the time, though it makes absolutely no sense to me now.

Bill and I did the co-parenting thing for several years while Bill still lived in Berkeley. Max spent half the week with me and half the week with his father, stepmother, and stepbrother Beau.

When it was my turn to parent, I would often take Beau for a couple of days as well because I like kids – the more, the merrier! – and because I didn’t think it made any emotional sense for Max to be an only child in one environment and part of a collective in another. Seems to me that the experience of having siblings is actually far more profound than the experience of being parented.

Then Bill got a fabulously high-paying job in Orange County.

And Orange County is Southern California at its absolute vapid, superficial, materialistic worst.

Bill wanted to assume physical custody of Max.

“You’re a great mother, Patrizia,” MaryAnn – the stepmother – told me. “But everyone knows a two-parent family is better for a kid than a one-parent family.”

Now, you may think this put my panties in a twist.

But it didn’t.

I was brought up by a single parent. And I absolutely agreed with MaryAnn: Not every single parent/single child relationship is as toxic as the one I shared with my mother, but the potential for abuse and emotional damage is very high: There’s simply no buffer.

No. The reason I decided not to yield physical custody of Max is because they wanted to move him to Orange County, which I believe now, as I believed then, is the Devil’s own housing development. If they were moving anywhere else, I probably would have wept and said, Okay.


We went to court, and I won.

Since I had custody of Max throughout the school year, he spent summers in Orange County. And in lieu of child support, I requested that Bill fly Max down there for at least one long weekend a month so that he and Max could continue to have a real relationship. Also Bill was supposed to cover the necessary college expenses.

Bill was a bit dodgy on that first front, and I think the second front was complicated by the fact that Bill and MaryAnn went on to have two daughters, and Bill did not think in all fairness that he could do for one what he was not prepared to do for three.

For his first two years of college, Max went to Deep Springs, which was free-ee-eee-eeee! But for his second two years, he went to Stanford University, which is muy expensive. Bill subsidized part of that, but Max did go on to incur the dreaded Student Loans. He got a high-tech job after he graduated where he made the Big Buck$ and paid off the Student Loans in a year or so. Then he left and became a social worker.

Then he decided that being a social worker simply did not give him enough agency to right the world’s wrongs.

And applied to law school.



I always drove Max to Orange County for the summer.

Like most teenagers, Max hardly ever condescended to have what I would call a real conversation with me in our everyday life together.

But on long car rides, while there were the occasional stops for miniature golf and junk food, basically, there was nothing else to do but have real conversations.

Plus in those days, I was either working for People Magazine or ICM, so a great deal of my professional life took place in Los Angeles. I always had business to attend to after I dropped Max off. And my then-close pal Abe lived in San Diego, so I’d generally swoop down and hang out with him for a couple of days.


I’d always drive the length of Carmel Valley Road on the first part of our travels. It’s a beautiful country road once you leave Carmel Valley, paralleling the Carmel River, soaring up through ranches and vineyards and overhanging live oaks. There’s a Beware of Crossing Newts sign! Finally you come to this huge grassy meadow before you take the plunge out of the Santa Lucia Mountains into the dry and ghastly Salinas Valley below.

We’d always stop at this meadow. Get out of the car. Stretch our legs.

On one such stop – I don’t remember the year – I remarked to Max, “I daresay in 25 years or so, this will all be developed. It’s such a straight shoot from here to Highway 101.”

“You’re wrong!” Max snapped. Typical teenager or budding urban planner?

“I’ll make you a bet!” I said. “Ten bucks says I’m right.”

“You’re on!” said Max.

I laughed and said, “Well even if I’m wrong, I’m not gonna be out the ten bucks. ‘Cause in ten years, you won't remember this conversation.”

“Oh, but I will,” said Max. “And if I do, that’s ten bucks, too.”

And sure enough, a few years back, Max called me and said, “You owe me ten bucks.”


So this… um… art installation is intended to commemorate that conversation.

I envisioned it as a kind of shadow box/retablo thing initially. Sort of like this:

I figured I’d make all the hanging live oaks and grassy meadows and newts out of Fimo.

Except that I’m actually pretty lousy with Fimo. I have a hard time making beads.

So, what I’m doing instead is a kind of three-dimensional collage in a shadow box. I can draw the images digitally on my Wacom tablet. I’ll use those little carpet tack glue circle thingies to give three-dimensionality to the boxed collage pieces so that various pieces – that blue, blue, blue California sky; those dusty green live oaks; those mountains; the view to the valley; my red Vdub bug; and, of course, that sulky teenage boy and his doting mother – project outward from the frame of the shadow box.

Into the middle of this, I will glue a ten-dollar bill!

The effect, I hope, will be something like that Visit Earth! NASA poster above.

I have no idea whether I can pull the art installation off. Such small creative talents as I possess are almost exclusively verbal.

But, hey!

How can you possibly fuck up a collage, right?

This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org/696953.html. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 5th, 2018 06:11 pm (UTC)
It sounds FABULOUS, and I'm pretty sure Max will love it. Tristan when he was younger eschewed all parental sentimentality, but has since then come to treasure any evidence that we cherished him and still do.
Feb. 5th, 2018 06:14 pm (UTC)
Also, it's handmade, right? So all variations are part of its character. You might even play up the rusticity of it. Do you have photos of yourself and Max you could use or alter for the characters?

When my kids were small I made a gift for my mother; someone gave me a brand new Sierra Club calendar, and I went thorough all my photos of the kids and inserted them, via rubber cement, into each of the photos. You know, Tristan and Honora in bathing suits standing on the coral reef, in parkas hiding behind a polar bear, etc. I still have it because she gave it back when the year was over. It's damn clever.
Feb. 5th, 2018 06:21 pm (UTC)
I did that too one year for a friend! She wanted to travel,but family obligations held her back.

So I Photoshopped her image into a series of landmark pix: Eleanor in front of the Eiffel Tower! Eleanor in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa! And printed them up on magnetic sheets so I could turn them into refrigerator magnets. :-)

Yeah, I'm planning on putting portraits of me and Max into the 3-D collage. :-)
Feb. 7th, 2018 04:04 pm (UTC)
I'm sure you're right. :-)
Feb. 6th, 2018 11:22 pm (UTC)
Aww, what a fabulous idea!
Feb. 7th, 2018 03:58 pm (UTC)
Awww. Thank you!

PS: I miss you!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )