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Family Photos Featuring My Mother: Frances Butcher Leach

I submit that this photo of my mother and a parrot is a clear demonstration of my mother's appreciation of the absurd, her superior sense of humor and of other qualities as well.

The photo was taken in the late nineteen-seventies in my brother Brad’s apartment in Atlanta, Georgia. The parrot lived with my brother, and it was Brad who placed the parrot on my mother’s head and took the photo.

The parrot seems calm as does my mother, even though I have recently been told by one who was there that while the parrot was resting in my mother’s hair he was also digging his claws into her scalp. Thus, in the photograph above, my mother is demonstrating an appreciation of the absurd, a superior sense of humor and admirable stoicism. Stoicism and a sense of humor could be thought of as both complementary and pervasive qualities in my mother.

Note that in the background of the photograph there is a predatory black chandelier and a dining room table. A print hangs on the wall behind the table—a vomitous and reddish sky, a lake with large drab birds. Note that my mother is facing away from this assemblage.

In the foreground of the photograph and its focus are my mother and the parrot. I believe that the humor here is derived from an incongruity, an unlikely apposition of disparate species, avian and human, and from my mother’s apparent attitude regarding the presence of the bird on her head. I would call her attitude bemused but not alarmed. Note her eyebrows.

In fact, my mother is demonstrating such admirable dignity that the photograph could even be understood as a formal portrait of a woman and her beloved parrot.


Here are more photos of my mother with a parrot, a different parrot, also Brad's. In this series my mother is shown demonstrating her fearless nature. Note well that in the image in the lower right, she allows the parrot to take a peanut from her teeth and does so without blanching.



In this grouping of photos we see the men of our family: My father James E. and my brothers Brooks and Brad. I am seen here declaiming on Venice Beach while standing in a garbage can. I'm also seen sitting with my laughing brothers on a couch somewhere. I have recently been told by one who was there that just before the photograph of the boys on the couch was taken, two of the couch-sitters—brothers Brooks and Brad— had given each other the finger, thus their laughter; I don’t remember. There is also a photograph of my father in a relaxed pose and of my father and me in a warm embrace.


My mother's final Christmas


My mother

Britt Leach
27 October 2006

My thanks to my brother Brad for providing
all of the photographs on this page. —B.L.

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