posted by: Lori Holden
Have you read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking? It chronicles the period after the sudden death of the author’s husband’s and the concurrent illness of her adult daughter. It is starkly written and trance-like in nature.
On the back cover is an intriguing photo, one with such interesting composition and mystery that I found myself staring into it on occasion. It was taken in Malibu in 1976. I play the guessing game.
I think on their names. John Dunne and Joan Didion — Irish, perhaps? Quintana Roo, their daughter. Must have a connection to Mexico — but the name is not fully explained in the book. Their daughter looks to be about my age that year.
I study their faces. Yup, Quintana looks like the perfect combination of John’s facial structure and Joan’s self-assured sassy. She looks as if she’d like the photographer to leave already, and let her get back to the conversation she was having with her parents.
I read for several nights. I found out, as part of a casual mention, that Quintana was adopted. On page 118: “…John and I had brought Quintana home from St John’s Hospital. She was three days old.” Not much of a clue until two pages later: “We took Quintana there on the day of her adoption, when she was not quite seven months old.”
I study the photo again with this new information. I look at the faces to re-verify their connections.
I do this face-study thing often, and I wonder if I do it more often than most (read: non-adoptive parents). I look for genetic clues in faces to see if families are biological or adoptive. I look for similarities in chins, matching mouths, equal smiles, companion expressions, between children and parents and among children.
I wonder if, on this playground or at that school function, there are other families like us — connected by biography rather than biology.
Do you? Study faces?