Mostly I’m creating and playing and sharing the results. But a little bit of my online agenda these days is quietly folding away old self-centric things. It feels less important now to turn the attention to myself rather than to the art I can make with my unique experience.
So I put away out of the public eye another batch of the oldest posts. Pictures from my childhood.
A pretty and well-mannered little child, attention focused on a book, one button undone, perhaps from fidgeting with it.
Studio portrait, technically recognizable as me, but also just about any toddler. Finger in mouth. Baby shoes with a carefully folded over sock. A floral print dress.
With Grandma. She is wearing beads and is about the age I am now looking at this picture. No, younger by several years. My cousin is beside us and for once I’m the one wiggling and excited by something out of the picture and my cousin stands, cautious and serious, gazing at the photographer.
Me in an outfit of pale colors including white tights and shoes and a wee cardigan over my palest pink dress, sitting in a sandbox intently shoveling sand into a cup. Scooping sand with my bare hands. Kneeling in the sand. Later, apparently, on what looks like the porch of a vacation home—empty wading pool, grill, folded chair, strewn toys, a slatted wall behind and pine boards underfoot—the tights discarded, staring open-mouthed at the photographer and leaning forward, my long hair blanketing my shoulders and my eyes dark under my straight bangs.
Grandma and my cousin and I in a wooded area. Us two small ones at a picnic table. Both of us chipmunk-cheeked. My cousin (wisely, I now deem) in overalls, while I am in a white turtleneck and cardigan.
A picnic with Grandma, photo by Grandpa. I sit on her lap. She’s in shorts and has her sleeves rolled up above the elbow with a neat cuff. She’s feeding me something. I’ve got the white turtleneck again, but now I’ve got blue pants and suspenders, white shoes and red sneakers. You’d think it was from July, but the slide was developed in May. The wreckage of the picnic lies around us. Red-and-white striped cups. Plates and bags and a casserole dish and a partially eaten pie and plates with napkins and bits of uneaten food and a box with a Pepsi logo so old I don’t remember it. Also the ubiquitous big thermos for my grandparents’ coffee. We are under a tree on the grass beside some still blue water. Seems like a lovely time. And there’s pie left…
A month or so in the future perhaps. The pink dress with the short pleated skirt, but no tights, no long-sleeved shirt underneath, and bare feet. Walking on grass. Gazing out over the lawn, laundry basket in the distance, perhaps at the backyard of my great-grandmother’s house next door to my grandparents’, sucking my thumb. Sitting in a small, red, inflatable wading pool—seemingly only there to keep toys contained or provide a smooth place to sit on the grass with my bare legs—and making a growling face like a lion or tiger. Playing and trying on different voices and attitude, looks like. Throwing a ball with someone, probably Grandma. Next to me is a little stuffed animal of a dog of which I was very fond. Its short, blond fur was a little scratchy I remember. Curled in the little dry pool, sucking my thumb.
My great-grandmother, mother of my mother’s father, in a pink Chanel-style dress with pearly beads, with me and my cousin standing beside her looking like dolls or cherubim, the Christmas tree with fancy glass balls and silver tinsel behind her. It is one of the most happy and relaxed pictures of her I recall. Her old hand with its swollen knuckles rests lightly on my little arm and both my cousin and I have our hands on her lap. The past and the future together at the turning of the year.
And then the next day and the frenzy of presents. My cousin rushing toward the photographer arms outstretched, wrapping paper in each hand. She is wearing a cute 1960s short shirt dress in a boisterous green pattern and has bare legs. I, in the background, have a brown flannel, long-sleeved nightgown over white tights. I’m clutching a doll and something else, the doll I recall as being one that was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Looking at it, I think the thing in my hand might be a blue and white striped mattress from the dolls’ white bunk bed. That was made out of wood and I was so fond of it that it moved to my parents’ house at some point when it took on a new life as a toy shelf, if I remember rightly. Though it was always “the doll bed” when I referred to it.
Another picture and now I have a red long-sleeve shirt or dress and yellow tights and black shoes. My cousin and I are completely absorbed in the new Fisher-Price dollhouse, the one that folded closed and the handle acted as a latch. I loved that thing and it led eventually to me years later saving up my money (earned doing chores and selling pussy willows to downtown office workers) for my first really big purchase: the Fisher-Price Castle. In the background of this picture my aunt kneels on the floor, her long, long hair hanging across her lap, wearing pants with an wild pattern with flowers on the kneecaps, and possibly a shawl in a completely different but equally intricate pattern. Someone in the foreground, too blurry to recognize, is wearing royal purple. Ah, the 60s. Behind us is a Christmas tree with presents still wrapped under it and one very visible string of popcorn adorning it. Another day maybe? Definitely at my grandparents house now and I’m wearing a two-piece pajama/sweatpants outfit in white with red stripes. I’m standing in the middle of a pile of wrapping paper and boxes from which has emerged some sort of doll bassinet and two dolls, one white and one black. I am efficiently and with total focus stripping one of the dolls of its clothes to put it to bed. An adult in the background is grinning at the scene.
Stepping forward toward seeing a little more of the conscious self I remember, but still gazing through that foggy glass into early childhood, catching familiar motions but nothing I can name with confidence.