Opening the envelope with a Christmas card from my cousin, two photographs slipped out and fell to the floor. I picked them up, turned them over, and was utterly surprised at what I saw. The pictures were of two skinny young women striking silly poses while wearing hats, pearl necklaces, spiky heeled shoes and ridiculous looking shorts. Could one of them really be me?
The shock was in that it took me a while to remember anything about when or where that picture was taken. Dim memories surfaced. Prior to getting the picture, I thought I remembered all the important times in my life and this would have certainly been one of them. My memory bank was not giving me back all I had stored there. It was disconcerting. I have been digging in that bank ever since receiving the picture, trying to recall the circumstances that surrounded it.
I vaguely remember going to visit my cousin when she lived on an army base in Kansas. Obviously that is when this picture was taken of the two of us. I suppose that when I was told at my first job that I had vacation time, I would have wanted to use it for that. Go on a vacation.
Our family didn't go on annual vacations when I was growing up on the farm. The daily chores of feeding livestock and milking cows twice a day didn't allow for our family to leave home for more than a few hours at a time.I suppose what we could have called our vacations were the days we spent at the county fair two or three days in a row every August, always heading home at chore time, then returning to the fairgrounds afterward.
We shared our situation with most of the other families we knew with the exception of one. One of my classmates and her family went on a trip of some sort every summer during school vacation. My dad explained that because they had a hired man the animals were taken care of even if they were gone. We didn't have a hired man because we had boys in our family and they didn't. A hired man would not be part of the family so he would be there to do chores while the family was away. My memory bank did store my friend's stories of the trips with her family. Out of them grew a strong yearning to someday see the mountains of Colorado or visit the Black Hills and see the sculptures on Mount Rushmore for myself.
But there I was in a photograph taken on a vacation that I barely remember. The trailer home in the background reminded me of how small it was and how sweet. I thought of it as a doll house for grownups. I phoned my cousin to see if talking about it with her would bring back my own memories. A few did come back, not in a flood but a trickle. Mary Lou told me we were being silly on the day the picture was taken and tied a note to her dog's collar inviting her best friend who lived a trailer or two from her to come join us for "high tea." The minute we took Piddles' leash off (I did remember the dog's name for some reason) he went straight to Joyce's trailer where he knew he would get treats for doing nothing. We got all blinged up (except for fancy dresses because it was a beastly hot Kansas day) to surprise her when she came. She was the photographer who shot the photo that started all this remembering.
Mary Lou also said we went to the army base to swim in their pool every day during my visit. Since I thought the idea of having a cemented pool would be a dream come true and we had none close to home, I should think I would have remembered that. Why would the only memory I came up with on my own be the little dog's name and my reaction to her tiny abode? Strange.
The picture of the skinny girls is now hanging on my refrigerator door. It is a fun reminder of someone I barely remember but who looks carefree and innocent. I am trying to get in touch with that old me -- poor choice of words -- of that former version of me. "Old me" is now!