My mom gave me a box of pictures recently. She was divesting her house of some of the photo albums that she’s carted around for nearly 50 years.
You know how it is: there comes a time when you’re overwhelmed with the desire to remove evidence of hairstyles and wallpapers past.
Not me, because I’m all vintage-loving and collector-ish, but, you get the idea.
Anyhoo. I was the first child for my parents and I was also the first grandchild for both sets of grandparents. There are a LOT of pictures of me, The Golden-Haired Child (as my uncles named me, I think euphemistically). There are a LOT of pictures of my younger sister, too.
That’s her, poking me, in case you were wondering. I was apparently not adverse to some slight poking.
The two of us were kind of rock stars in the family for a while on account of we were the first grandkids and nieces. Life was good in those black-and-white (or matching hippo dresses) years, let me tell you. We had ALL THE FUN PEOPLE to ourselves for quite a long time before any competition in the cute-ness arena came along.
In addition to the black and white extravaganza in the box, there are also colour photos, of course. And, small squares (2×2?) and 4x6s and 5x7s. There are ones that look like Polaroids and others that look as if they were taken with Grandma Helen’s brownie camera from the 1950s.
There are snaps of Grandma Verna in her glamorous hair and ones of my mother with her mini skirts and impossibly-long legs. My dad, sporting his PhD-length beard and assorted, motley snow creations from those Canadian March Breaks where the grass and mud came up with the snow when you were trying to roll a beautiful, pristine snowy ball to make a snow Bionic Woman.
Then, there are the alarming, giant, 8x10s of me (those came with the package we ordered from the school picture day each year). Some curling slightly at the edges. Others bearing the scars of tape that held them down firmly for decades. The one where I curled my own hair for the first time, in grade 6 (that was a crispy mistake). Some have dates typed on their edges–something automatically done by the camera or the processing at the time.
There are even some that I took during my early teenage, artsy-fartsy photography phase and processed myself, in my dad’s darkroom at his work. Snow on a lamp post. Roses up close. Under exposed roses (dimly lit) up close. Over exposed roses (brightly lit) up close. The sort of thing that, equipped with developer and fixer and a red light in the darkroom, I could wax artistic with in the shadows, like the geeky adolescent I was.
All of it, evidence today of ancient, ancient photographic history–and wallpaper and hairstyles past.
To be clear, these are actual photos in the box. Not the kind you scroll through while sipping your frothy drink-du-jour in a high-priced coffee shop. It’s sort of a big old box of ME. And, not–let’s face it–a big old box of carefully curated me.
Nope, these are not the kind of photos where you can take 257 pictures and delete the ones where your finger was over the lens or your horrific “perm” looked blurry (thank goodness) or you looked like a cross between Shawn Cassidy and Annie Sullivan, in her dark spectacle years.
(You young’uns might have to look those up.)
It’s a ride down memory lane, I tell ya.
Some of them give me pause. Like this one:
I’ve had a thing for swings since I was a teenager. Not the pinch-y bum swings, as my friend Grover calls them. The real-for-true, comfy on the bottom, board swings. Oh yes, I’d put on my Sony Walkman (seriously high tech) and stomp to the nearby park to swing out whatever teenage angst happened to be plaguing me that day. The music was always the same: it was my anthem. Every teenager needs a Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song.
Or, specifically, Somebody-Done-ME-Wrong-Song.
Probably my mother (I was a teenager, after all.) Or, Graham McSweetie, who was smart and had melty brown eyes and was, naturally, completely oblivious to my existence.
I’d tell you the name of my Somebody-Done-ME-Wrong-Song, but that’s classified.
Besides, everybody needs their own Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song for the swings. Trust me. It doesn’t work unless you have your own.
The song needs to be something that makes your heart swell with indignity and injustice and…well, kind of a YESSSSSSSS that spells vindication in your head. Vindication for all that has been plagued upon you by the oblivious hotty in your French class at the forsaken age of…16.
For me, the Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song was also a very important coping mechanism so that I could actually swing out my indignity and injustice and stuff.
Swing without vomiting, that is.
Because, more than 30 seconds of swinging makes me vomit, dontcha know. Sorry for the detail but if you, like me, are plagued with this unfortunate swinging disability, I encourage you to get yourself a Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song and try it again.
There’s some kind of magical inner-ear, motion-sickness thingy that the music does for nauseous and dizzy and fainty people like moi.
(I can’t imagine why Graham McSweetie wasn’t falling all over himself to date me.)
Not only that, but I encourage you to forgo the gnashing of teeth and that secret internet Troll behaviour you’ve been exhibiting. There is nothing like swinging high, high, high when you’re filled with indignity and injustice or you’re incredibly shy and you’ve just agreed to live halfway around the world, in a foreign country, for three whole months and you have to live with a strange family and eat strange stuff and speak a strange language where “I love you” sounds a lot like “Go do the washing up” and you are wondering what kind of crazy thing you’ve gotten yourself into and your heart is filled with a combination of excitement and dread.
To get back on point: THIS is the moment for the swing.
Or, in my case, about 4 moments, because that’s all the time I get, even with my Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song, before I start to feel as if I might vomit, again.
Which brings me back to the big box of photos. Look at me swinging, wildly and with abandon, not a hint of inner-ear, dizzy-fainty-ness apparent, at the ripe old age of 4. How wonderful is that?
There’s just a Thing About Swings.
And now, you know.
When I was 5 or 6, I decided to run away.
I can’t recall what unspeakable childhood injustice led to the moment when I flounced into my room and started packing my suitcase, but I do remember the dilemma:
how to fit everything in?
The little blue suitcase that I kept my doll’s clothes in wasn’t nearly big enough to hold the non-negotiable running away necessities such as:
- a flashlight to guard against bogey man,
- books and books and books to read while “on the road”,
- clean underpants (in case I was in an accident),
- penny bank (a plaster, brown-and-white pig approximately the size of my entire torso),
- and red-and-white checkered umbrella and raincoat ensemble (one can never be too stylish while running away),
let alone my TREASURES.
Red cowboy hat:
Mickey mouse record player:
and my Elizabeth doll:
I should have known right then and there, that I was never going to be a footloose and fancy-free kind of gal.
Too. Much. Stuff.
My new vintage suitcase evokes a 1974, running away kind of vibe too.
As in, Practical Man wants to run away when he sees the loud pattern.
I think he might have some kind of rare retinal disorder.
I love him anyway.
This suitcase is approximately the same size as my old running away version.
The inside is pristine, as if someone 5 or 6 years old couldn’t quite fit all her treasures in there either. As a result, it probably rested, only occasionally disturbed by a fleeting fancy of running away, until it was returned to under the bed.
I think it wants to be my new briefcase. It is not only (obviously) fabulous looking but eminently useful with both interior and exterior pockets and a handy umbrella slot. I can’t wait to take it out into the world and around the university, full of fun stationery supplies, snacks, a sunhat, music, assorted Sharpie markers, and life’s essentials: books and books and more books.
Some things never change.