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Debra Lynn Clear
I was sickly and anemic as a child. My great-grandmother, a little Italian lady that spoke broken English, used to see me in the hospital and she would say, “Thatta lil girl…..she noggona make it!” My sister was sick a lot, too. We even shared a hospital room one Christmas and a local Providence TV station put us on the news! Sadly, my sister was the one that did not make it and she died in August of 1961. Instead, I grew up smack dab in the middle of two brothers. I remember the day when I went into the quaint little Country Store in Lincoln with my mother and announced to the storekeeper, “My brothers and I are 5, 10, and 15 now!” For some reason that was cool to me. It was kind of like being part of a living fives table in some cosmic math book. I always liked school. Studied. Did well. Lots of extracurricular activities, committees. I graduated 12th in a class of 252.
I remember writing poetry at a young age, picking up photography by 12, learning about composers, studying French and Spanish. I loved being around books. My older brother, David, used to call me Diane Chambers (from Cheers). But I was just really interested in learning, writing, creating. I always said that my siblings and I liked creativity because my parents always spoke to us in pictures. If we asked what a word meant, they would say, “It’s like when…..” and then they’d paint a word picture so we could feel the definition instead of them just giving us a jumble of words. My brother, Cliff, said they really only did that with me because I secretly needed the “short bus.” Wise guy.
Anyway…I took the work, marriage, kid route. I worked for the family construction business in addition to being a teller for the long-gone Old Stone Bank. I was almost 22 when this guy came in and handed me a $15 check to cash on Feb. 5, 1982. When he left, I tried to check him out, you know, to see if he had money, where he lived, etc. The computer would not give me any info, though, because he was an employee of the same bank. Geez, I had to wait and learn it all the hard way.
We got married in 1984, honeymooned in Hawaii and lived in Stratford, CT for a year. Bobby worked for a bank and I worked for Save the Children in Westport. Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, Ashford and Simpson, Christopher Reeve and Paul Newman were all celebrity sponsors and would be in and out of the building. Joanne Woodward was often seen on Main Street and I was once at an intersection directly across from Paul Newman. His eyes really were THAT blue. Save flew me to New Mexico to photograph the Indian kids at the National Indian Children’s Conference in Oct. 1984. Some of my pictures got circulated around the world – with my byline- in the agency’s financial reports and literature. The neat thing was when I would wake up at night and a Save the Children PSA would be playing. The celebrity would be sitting on a stool in front of an 8-foot photo enlargement of a child and it would be MY photo! They also assigned me to photograph a re-launch party for Blue Note Records in New York City in February 1985. I turned around to talk to my husband on the stairs and, instead, it was George Benson. Sting, John Cassevetes, Benny Goodman, etc. – they were all there along with other celebs and record producers from NYC and LA. My husband was enjoying the free drinks, cough, cough, when he went up to Herbie Hancock, slapped him on the back and said, “Hey! I saw you in Italy, you know. Do you remember that concert?” I kid you not! He actually did this and I have a photo of the moment. Herbie looked like he wanted to dispatch security right there and then.
We ended up having four pregnancies, two miscarriages and three healthy boys. Our oldest would have been a twin but with the way he eats, it’s no wonder the other one didn’t make it past the blinking blip stage. Brad was born in Sept. 1987, Mark debuted in June 1989 and Chris surprised us and arrived in May 1993. They are all smart, they are all different and they all have minds of their own. If I have learned anything at all about parenthood, it is that as hard as you think it is when they are infants and toddlers, the worry factor is so much less then than when they are teenagers and twenty-somethings. Brad recently graduated from Boston University with a degree in math and economics. I drove him across the country in June 2009 with his car and belongings so he could move to Los Angeles. Mark is working on his college degree. He loves cars and is good at restoring them. He has a great work ethic and he has worked all through school. Chris is quite a ladies’ man with athletic abilities and a single priority: his social life. He had better introduce himself to the academic life when school starts this year! They all have girlfriends, talents and abilities. Their needs are expensive and their cell phone minutes alone look like the long, mathematical version of Pi. I suppose this phase will also end and the grandmother phase will begin. I am not rushing it but I do look forward to it.
My husband and I will celebrate twenty-five years of marriage in Sept. 2009. Some days it is like the song, “You’re still the One” and other days, it is like the song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (just joking….) You know you have invested a quarter century, though, when the biggest debate that you have is over who has the better hospital. Mine is Massachusetts General and his is Tufts. Both are based in Boston. Yep…I have probably had more anesthesia than Michael Jackson. A diagnosis of Crohn’s can really feel like a punch in the gut – literally as well as figuratively speaking. But good docs and big drugs are keeping it all in remission over these past 6 years. I think I would like to be a public speaker or fundraiser for the Crohn’s/Colitis Foundation. I just hope genetically, the disease never touches the kids.
I have traveled quite a bit in the U.S. I have seen Bermuda and the Bahamas, too. I’ve been to Nova Scotia, Montreal, Grand Manan Island. I really want to see Europe, though. Being a photographer and not being able to photograph the beauty of Tuscany or the countrysides of Ireland or Greece is like sitting at the world’s largest feast and not having a mouth. It’s cruel. I also have so much to write. Complete stories with characters that I know so well are all having dialogues in my head. Geez, I hope writing the stories down will quiet the voices or I’m going to need a really good analyst. Ya think?
My husband works many hours and is the District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration. He is in charge of Massachusetts. He can be found at in case anyone is looking for a small business loan or advice on running his or her business. There, that was my free advertisement. Happy Anniversary, dear………
By the way, I just love the genealogy and the gems that are found when the layers are peeled back. Everyone ought to know from where they came. - Debbi Clear Nelson