It’s really a slide – remember those? That’s what my dad took, back in the 50’s when I was very little, and he had a huge, boxy brown camera with a flash attachment as big as a lampshade. Not only did the bulbs flash in your face when you least expected it, they made a sharp Pop! sound, their bright little lives over in an instant. Oh, was I terrifed of that thing! Each one of my bithday parties was completely spoiled by the knowledge that he was prowling around with his camera and its horrible flash attachment, trying to take my picture.
But I digress.
It’s the photograph (or slide) I’m here to recall for you, and since I have no idea where the actual item has ended up, recall it I must. Actually, I believe it’s quite well etched in my memory, for it’s the image of myself as a child that most describes the essence of me.
I’m probably two at most, and I’m standing at our back gate – the proverbial white picket fence type. My back is to the camera, my little legs are bare underneath the short dress I’m wearing. The neat bow at my waist has started to come undone, and hangs slightly askew. I’ve probably been swinging on my swingset -my most favorite outdoor activity at that age.
So there I am, standing at the gate, reaching on tiptoe as far as I can reach, one hand on the latch about to lift it and make my escape to -freedom! And the camera catches me just as I look over my shoulder, a pleased and rather wicked little grin on my face, to see if anyone is watching.
Oh, you can be sure I was stopped before I got out. I was watched mighty carefully in those days – after all, an only child whose mother (and grandparents) were in the house 24-7 was in no danger of having too much freedom, believe me.
But that image still haunts me. It recalls the feeling of being trapped, of not being allowed out of the safe confines of my home, of being cloistered behind the gate.
At the same time, it summons that buring desire to throw the gate wide and burst out at full throttle, like a race horse off the gun.
If I could find that photograph, I’d have it enlarged into a huge poster I could hang on the wall, a poster that would remind me I’m all grown up now, and I can open the gate if I want to.
There’s no one to stop me anymore.
go here to see more photographs