Ana, Camila and Lola
IT WAS A WARM, early summer evening in Bexley when I met up with Ana, her daughter, Camila, and their dog, Lola. They were referred to me by friends, and I was excited about the opportunity to feature a
single-parent family instead of my usual couple. After some portraits where we lucked out with beautiful light from the setting sun, we chatted over dinner on the patio of Guiseppe’s Ritrovo. As Ana’s story unfolded, I expected 10 year old Camila to stay hidden by her mother’s phone, but I was pleasantly surprised as she chimed in regularly and opened up to me even over delicate topics such as her parents’ separation, her mother’s coming out, and her father moving away.
Camila is a first-generation American - her mother from Uruguay, and her father from Guatemala. Ana told me about her struggles growing up in LA, working jobs to make ends meet, and trying to get an education while undocumented. While her family left Uruguay because of their politically liberal ideas, socially they were not as accepting, and so for much of her life, Ana kept trying to maintain relationships with the opposite sex. When she met Camila’s father, their political ideas and passions aligned, and an intense and long relationship developed. Ana admitted to me,”He was one of my best friends.” A difficult pregnancy coincided with a job opportunity for him in Ohio, and they relocated to Columbus when Camila was
3 months old.
Life in Columbus created financial stability, while at the same time, life was also hectic; her husband’s two older children moved in, and his job required him to spend time away traveling. The combination created the opportunity for Ana to finally do some
soul-searching, but not intentionally. She says, “it just happened ... I found myself in this space where I was super happy, but then realized that this other part of myself was coming out.” She talked to her husband and kids, and they separated. The couple was normally very peaceful, but there was one fight; Camila witnessed it, which was particularly hard on her and everyone involved. Ana’s
ex-husband is now very supportive, and is happy in a new relationship.
Photos | AMY TANNENBAUM
“No, I don’t like men like that... [if I got married again,] it would be to a woman.” To Ana’s surprise, her daughter’s response was completely unphased and totally supportive. If anything, her parents’ separation, and her father’s subsequent relocation to Canada for a job opportunity, was harder on her than her mother being gay.
It was also hard on their dog, Lola, who became part of the family at Camila’s request for a dog just before the separation. Lola was chosen to accommodate Camila’s allergies, and she calls Lola her “nonhuman best friend,” sometimes telling her things she won’t even share with her mother. Camila brags that Lola is a great listener while she practices her violin, and “she is good at keeping secrets.” Just after the separation, Ana moved to a two-bedroom apartment, and Camila floated between her parents for some time before settling with her mother. For Lola however, the apartment was not ideal, and she settled with Camila’s father until he moved away and Ana found a home. “She is a very sensitive dog,” Ana explains; the stress of the separation caused her anxiety, and wouldn’t eat when she was upset. These days, Lola is surrounded by stability and love.
Camila and Ana discuss differences often and how important they are. “She’s at the age when she looks for things to fit in a mold, with a clear path, but we are not ordinary at all,” Ana explained. “Everyone in our family is from different countries and with different parents. She asks me, ‘Can we just have a normal family?’ We have a normal family, it just looks different from other families … every family is different.”