The Photo Shoot

Our lives are made up of memories; a treasury of events that are stored in our minds until something teases that memory to the surface where it is relived in a, hopefully, pleasant reverie. This memory is a special one for me, despite the rag curls.

I was still asleep when my mother came into my bedroom and gently pulled back the covers, coaxing me awake. It was early morning and my bedroom felt crisp, not yet warmed from the cook stove in the kitchen at the bottom of the stairs. She jerked the sleepy blind to life that hung lazily behind the nightstand. It thwapped its way to the top of the window to let in the view of the cool blue-pink spring sky above the ocean horizon.

Stretching and sitting up, I noticed at the foot of my bed white lace leotards and a little white dress that I had never seen before. The dress had interwoven silver threads in a windowpane plaid pattern with a delicate white lace ruffle at the collar and the end of each sleeve. I hopped out of bed, careful to avoid haphazardly landing on the black patent leather shoes that had been pulled out from their hiding spot beneath my dresser.

My mother, seeming to be in a hurry, didn’t say a word but helped me out of my nighty and into the leotards and shoes, then slipped the dress over my head. She opened my little jewelry box. The tiny ballerina came to life twirling and dancing in the mirror of the opened lid as plunky tin notes of Brahms Lullaby floated through the air seeming to make the coolness sharper somehow. She plucked a pearl necklace and matching bracelet from the box’s contents and completed my ensemble with their adornment.

I was a bit confused and excited as to what all the fuss was about, but there didn’t seem to be time to ask any questions. I went quickly down the stairs to the kitchen at my mother’s prompting to stand by the enamel sink where she gently combed and teased my hair until she smiled with motherly satisfaction.

Aside: Looking at the photos, my hair is much curlier than my usual pin-straight strands which must have involved rag knots using strips torn from an old cotton sheet that my mother would have wound and tied round strands of my hair the night before. This would have caused much discomfort with random lumps pressing into my skull when I laid my head on my pillow.

She led me into the livingroom. It looked very strange. The floral covered couch had been pushed to one side. The small half-round end table, positioned in the corner, had been draped with the purple satin comforter borrowed from the foot of my bed. Two small lamps were placed on the floor, one on each side of the table and turned on giving a pretty sheen to the satin blanket and a soft glow to the papered walls.

My mom picked me up and sat me on the table. (I still have this end table and its mate in my current livingroom.) She crossed my legs at the ankles and arranged my hands in my lap. Directing me to smile and look this way and that, she snapped a series of photos with the compact  Kodak flash camera she used for birthdays and holidays. But this day my mother had gone to great lengths to capture special images of me on just a regular spring morning.

For a few brief moments I was Shirley Temple in my mother’s eyes; a curly haired vision of sugar and spice and everything nice.  She then let me hop down from the table allowing me to run back to my room, change my clothes and turn back into the little tomboy I usually was.

The following photos would have been taken The Friday or Saturday before Easter Sunday. My mother would have taken them in secret; Eugene (before he was my stepfather) would have been “over to the wharf” doing fishing errands and away from giving judgment of her efforts, especially since she had moved furniture around. She would have planned this photo shoot with me wearing an Easter outfit that she had purchased for possibly an Easter concert or some other Sunday school activity. I am about 4 years old here, and I remember sitting on that table wearing that outfit and feeling very special. A bit uncomfortable being all dressed up, but special in my mother’s eyes nonetheless.

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