I was nine or so when this photo was taken. The girl that was me looks into the camera a bit peevishly. I’d likely readied myself for bed and was reading before lights out. My mom had bathed and put my sisters to bed. Seeing me in my room as she left theirs, she probably went for her camera. She would have asked me to look up, wanting to capture the sweetness of of the moment and her bookish daughter’s face in the lamplight. The moment I saw this photo I remembered the nightgown. It was made of a cotton that was not too soft nor too starchy. For some reasons the apples were pale blue, not red.
What would this girl think if we were to meet? Would she want to play a game of Scrabble for old times’ sake? I’d gladly share my great new set of Crayolas with her. She’d want to trade me periwinkle for cerulean. I’d trade her magenta for red violet. She’d probably thank me for still liking licorice, dancing in the rain and jumping in leaf piles. She loved to do that when her father raked fallen oak leaves each fall. What would she think about having become an author?
She might well envy me that my hair is long enough to braid. Back then it was the pageboy or a pixie; she settled for the pageboy and wouldn’t get to grow her hair out for another few years. “Thank you for taking me to Paris,” she might say. “But I didn’t care much for the running of the bulls. The bullfights were gory and oddly mesmerizing.” Yep, she knew words like that back then. “I loved hiking in the red rocks and I love those red cowboy boots; you should wear them more often. Be sure I get to have some pretty dresses, OK?” Our mother bought her wonderful dresses. I wish I had pictures of some of them. Around this age Mom bought her two dresses for a wedding in Florida. One was a long-sleeved A-line in a white taffeta strewn with flowers, akin to a Gucci print. The other dress was cut like a smock, long sleeves gathered at the wrist and shoulders. It was made of moss-green sateen printed with rose and blush colored peonies. I bet she’d be surprised that I still have Godfrey, the little plush monkey our parents bought her when she was four. Maybe she’s glad she got frozen here in time, a book in hand with several years to go before her family fell apart.
I’m glad I found this photo. I keep it on my desk where I can look at her, smile and take in her expression of indulgence and patience. “I love you,” I tell her. Sometimes, in the quiet, if I wait long enough I hear her reply, “I love you, too.”