When I found the online pictures of our San Clemente beach house a few weeks ago, I sent the link to my brother and sister knowing they would most likely enjoy seeing the house as much as I did. A few days later my sister sent me two photos, including the one above, which was taken at the beach house, in the vacant lot next door. I have no memory of the picture being taken or who took it. I don’t know how old I am in the picture, but I believe the photo was taken by my mom. I think it came from her collection of photos and slides that my brother took with him after Mom died, and transferred to jpgs. He sent some (all?) of the photos to my sister, including apparently some ones of me.
My first reaction when I saw the photo was, “What a sad, serious little girl.” Maybe I didn’t want to look at the camera that day (was the sun’s glare too much?). Was my mom going for an arty sort of photo with me looking pensive or serious? Was I there just to provide a contrast to the giant sunflower? Whatever was going on, the end result was a picture of a not very happy child.
A couple of other things leaped out at me from the photo as well. Growing up I always wore my hair boy-short because it was supposedly “too curly” and Mom complained she couldn’t manage it. What I see in that picture though is lovely thick, possibly wavy hair, and not the unmanageable curls my mom always inferred. Also, I was told that I couldn’t own or wear a skirt because I “didn’t have a waist” and a skirt would slip right off of me (I didn’t own a skirt until I reached high school). And yet, there I am in a pair of shorts with a waistband and they are not falling off or anything close to it. The reasons/excuses I was given as a child for not getting to wear a much-desired skirt or grow out my hair do not match the reality in the photo.
I did not have a miserable childhood by any stretch of the imagination, but I did have an unhappy one, and the photo above triggered deep memories of having to often live with different rules and expectations than were applied to my brothers and sisters. I know now that much of the sadness I felt back then was actually depression, something that did not go away until I reached my mid-20s. It took only a moment for this single photograph to quickly bring up so many of the old feelings, and a few days for those feelings to evaporate. Even decades later the memories have power.
When I look at that picture I wish I could go back and whisper in that little girl’s ear, to let her know even though life will be hard at times:
- She will have a long and happy marriage, and the best friend ever for a partner.
- She will raise four smart, successful, caring children, gain the best daughter-in-law, and have two beautiful grandchildren.
- She will form deep, long-lasting friendships over the years.
- She will make dreams come true, and learn to trust her own power to make good decisions and follow them through.
- She will have more determination and strength than she can imagine, and yet remain full of hope and optimism.
- When she needs it most, there will be people along the way who see her potential, and who will be there to support and encourage her.
- She will grow up healthy, with strong legs, a strong heart, and a strong mind to keep her active and carry her into old age.
- She will travel the world, and visit and experience places she can’t even dream of now.
- She will grow up to enjoy a full, wonderful, happy life, one that she is going to create.
I am thankful that in spite of the unpleasantness of the memories this photo brought back it also led me to reflect on how fortunate I have been with the life I have had, and for all that I have experienced, learned, and been given along the way . . . a blessed life.