My cousin Marc has always been a source of admiration for me, not because of his incredible intellect, not because of his formidable talent as a photographer, but because, in his twenties, he had the courage to look outside the box and he chose an unusual life path.
A law degree and two subsequent specializations, one from a Dutch university and one from a British university, had virtually guaranteed him a highly successful career in the legal spheres, but to my recollection, he never used any of his degrees after university.
In the 60s, my sister Odile, cousins Barbara, Marc and Gerard
After returning from Great-Britain, Marc embarked on a six-month trip to China (in the early eighties when it was still untouched by Western influence), then flew to Chile. He never looked back. He lived for photography. Abstract, crazy beautiful photography.
In Santiago, he rented a room with a single window and, for years, he photographed objects and human shapes in this square of light. Not a trace of luxury. Not even a fridge. Only art.
Gerard, Marc and Barbara.
Now, in all honesty, had I been made to wear lederhosen in my childhood, I may have exiled myself to Chile as well. Rather sooner than later. After copious therapy.
Marc makes rare sporadic appearances in Belgium. The last time I saw him was years ago. Having recently reconnected with his brother Gerard (the barbecue warrior), I wish I had the opportunity to hang out with Marc too.
Last May, we threw a surprise party for my mom’s 75th birthday, and I, of course, documented the event and designed an album for her. So Marc, this one is for you. That’s what we look like now (I understand you may have felt the need to put an ocean between your family and yourself, but, see, the past always catches up with you…)
That’s the cover. It’s my mom riding the dinosaur. She has a good sense of humor. I think. I hope. She has not seen the album yet. I might get disowned.
My brother, Chris with an h, and sister, Odile with none, whisked my mother away to the movies and I hid in the rhododendrons (with the bees) until the coast was clear. I let the caterer in and the guests began to arrive.
My mom is blind as a bat (like me.) It took her a while to realize who the 25 strange people in the driveway were.
My mom had no idea I was in Belgium! When she saw me among family and friends, she thought I was a person who resembled me a lot!
My sister Odile (the Quintessential Cat Lady) and my aunt Nanou. Not fighting. Yet. I cannot begin to tell you how long it took me to figure out how to seat people, a matter of vital importance in my highly volatile family.
Gerard and Marcel, a family friend since the fifties. These two put together have a caustic sense of humor which reminds me of the barbs exchanged during our bi-weekly family lunches back in the seventies and eighties.
Odile’s son, Nicolas, and his girlfriend. My nephew (nefiou) is quite the entertainer.
Parenthesis: nefiou after having worked in the yard. As stated, quite the entertainer… I digress. Back to the party:
Feisty Marie-Helene, one of my mom’s best friend. Sharp as a tack.
The two compadres.
The catering company, Art’aste, did a great job.
Gerard, my cousin Valerie (who used to dismember her Barbie dolls) and Antoine (nefiou Sr.)
Gerard’s wife Nancy and Olivier, the husband of the Dismemberor. Sill in one piece. A miracle.
My crazy photographer brother (and his new Nikon D3) and the Dismemberor eying the camera suspiciously.
Marcel’s wife, Natha, having a “come to Jesus” with Nanou (I had seated them at different tables for dinner but all bets were off after dessert) – in the corner, one of my mom’s sculptures. I love her art. I liked the way she paints but I LOVE the way she sculpts. Every time I’m in Brussels, I steal all her sculptures and put them in my room. They are all mine.
Nancy, the Dismemberor, Gerard and another of my mom’s sculptures. Mine.
Between my brother and me, guests got photographed under every imaginable angle.
My brother sucks but I love to photograph him
The two waiters. My brother and I thought they were a pretty hilarious pair so at the end of the evening we kidnap them to the photo studio and played a little. They got in trouble with the caterer for disappearing on him. Chris and I felt like kids caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
The back cover. The album is on its way to Belgium. 30 pages of memories. Happy memories I hope. They’d better be happy considering the sweat, the blood, the ANGST it took to organize the whole affair! I’m just extremely relieved everyone survived and no one got sued.