A few weeks ago my husband and I were having breakfast at a local hotel the week before Christmas. The room was filled with families and an undercurrent of palatable excitement from the many young children ready to start their day, one day closer to Christmas. There was a family sitting directly across from us, a small boy, a youngish 30 something wife and her much older husband.
The mother and son were in their own orbit, chatting away, the boy sitting up on his knees several times for emphasis as he directed all his stories to his mother. The father sat buried deeply in his newspaper. I didn't think much of it until the boy stood up, right beside his father, touching his father's arm ever so slightly as he attempted to talk with his father. His father never responded; no nod, no eye contact, no words, nothing. It was as if the boy was not there. After standing silent for a minute or two the boy politely gave up and sat back down, now silently eating his breakfast. I watched his mother who mirrored her son; staring at her food, a pact of silence between them.
Our breakfast lasted for at least 45 minutes and the father never did lift his eyes from the newspaper. Looking at this scene I was reminded of a painting I had done in 2012 based on one of the Coolidge family photos. Its titled, "The End of the Dream." I thought of it as that moment when the veil is lifted at a certain point in some marriages and wishful ideas of happily ever begin to fade. Did I catch a glimpse of that look in the wife's eyes that day at breakfast. The boy seemed to still hold out hope, continually reaching out to his father. Perhaps his dream of "happy family" framed in innocence and hopefulness has outlived his mother's.