Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tagged

A picture came into my life the other day.  It arrived in a Facebook post with the announcement that I had been “tagged.”  Being the curious sort, and admittedly a little bit vain, I immediately clicked on the link, and there before me was a snapshot of my life taken over 40 years ago.  I had never seen this photo, but it instantly transported me back to that early Sunday morning back in 1966 or ’67.
The picture is a slightly blurry, black and white photo showing a young boy and girl linked arm and arm wearing their Sunday finest.  The occasion was Easter morning, and the young couple was I and next door neighbor, Julie Walker.  Julie and I were the same age, only four or five years old when this picture was taken.  We had been born into this neighborhood and were the only ones of our age, so it was natural that we became early playmates.  It was only a couple weeks ago that I had written to Julie that she was the first friend I ever had, and that is true.
Julie and I did everything together in those early days.  In the summertime we played together, either swinging on my swing set trying to touch the overhead electrical lines with our feet (obviously an impossible prospect, but it was a goal we still fought to attain) or maybe to even swing high enough to loop over the top, which for us was another equally impossible goal.  I’m sure many important childhood discussions were held on those swings, as we swayed back and forth and contemplated life from a five year old’s perspective.  Sometimes we played in Julie’s backyard, cramming our little bodies into her dog, Tippy’s doghouse.  I still don’t know how we managed to fit both of ourselves into that cramped, smelly space, but we did.  We might sit out on the front porch and have a popsicle together, or perhaps help Mom snap green beans for dinner.  We attended school together until I transferred to school 89 in fifth grade, not rejoining her until our high school years.  We also attended the same church, and that is where we were headed when this photo was taken.
The setting for the picture is the street in front of my childhood home.  We’re standing at the end of my gravel drive.  The photographer is standing under “the big tree.”  That is how the tall cottonwood at the back corner of Julie’s yard was known to the kids in the neighborhood.  It was the common meeting place and provided a cool pool of shade on a hot summer’s day.  There was always someone sitting under or perched high up in that tree.  The large spruce trees in the far neighbor’s yard are no longer there, but the little maple tree in my front yard is now a grand specimen.  The driveway was gravel for nearly all the years I lived there, but once I moved out, my parents had it paved.  I remember getting the job of sweeping the gravel off the walk or out of the street, and in the winter, one had to be careful to shovel snow and not scoop up too many rocks. 
The car in the background is my family’s car, and the first car I was to ever know.  I believe it is a ’56 Buick special and was white over light green.  My memory always paints that car a dark green or black, but pictures don’t lie.  I can remember our having the Buick, but for some reason, I don’t remember riding in it except for one time.  My father was giving my sister, Sheila a driving lesson.  Sheila had never driven anything, let alone a car with a clutch.  So that afternoon my sisters managed to jump, hop and stall that car over and over again all the way down the street.  I was along for the wild bronco ride, and I think that is why that particular day still holds a spot in the dusty corner of my memory.  I don’t know if Sheila ever did master the Buick, but my oldest sister lists it as one of her favorite cars to drive.
In the photo, Julie and I are dressed for Easter services.  Those were the days when people still shopped a special outfit to wear to church on Easter morning.  Today you are just as likely to see someone go to Sunday church services in blue jeans and a sweatshirt.  I miss the days of women with gloves and pillbox hats with their short veils and men in suits and hats.  I always looked forward to Mom buying me my new spring suit.  It always made me feel older and more important.  Julie is in her Easter dress with her anklets and gloves and patent leather shoes.  Her father had coated them the night before with Vaseline to accentuate the shine.  Her little grown-up purse is hanging from her wrist.  We were quite the couple.
I have a vague recollection of being told to hold her hand for the picture and not being particularly happy about it, and the sad face in the shot would seem to bear this out.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pose with Julie, but at that age, such public displays of affection were anathema to me.  But pose we did, and now four decades later I sit and look back on those happy times longingly. I want to go back to when tag was a game Julie and I played in the backyard and not a Facebook term.  Thank you Julie for sending me the photo, and thank you for being such a good friend all those many years ago. 

8 comments:

  1. Scott,

    1) Thanks for sharing the memories. It is amazing as I age how rich the memories are that one can tease out of a single such photograph, and the emotion that process evokes.

    b) You are pretty good at this writing stuff...your time and effort is much appreciated.

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  2. I do love this photo! When Julie posted it it brought the biggest smile to my face. And although it's not me, memories flooded me of this far ago time. It was very exciting to pick out a new Easter outfit. Dress up for Jesus! I always wanted a hat, gloves, and purse to go with my new dress & sometimes shoes. And although times were tight, we managed to get a new Easter outfit yearly.
    Wonderful memories Scott!

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  3. This photo reminded me so much of a little boy who befriended me when I was five. He was called Peter, the same age, and there was once a photograph of we two similar to yours, but like so many others, it has been lost along the way, down the years and over dozens of house moves since then. His father was a prison warder, worked away from home, and I sometimes wondered in later life, if Peter ever toughened up or was a disappointment to his father, as he was a wimp of the first order. He clung onto me like the proverbial limpet, followed me all around the school playground all the time, never made friends with other boys, just hung on to me. I remember even then, I didn't like clingy people, or maybe he was the cause of this dislike, and was probably quite cruel to him sometimes.
    But oh, those were the days when going to church on Sundays was special, when Sundays were special too. We wore our best clothes to go to church, pure white socks and gloves, hats too, worn by all the ladies, young and old. These days when people bother to go to church, they seem to not take the same amount of care in many cases. And certainly in my youth, ladies in church always covered their heads, with hats or scarves or similar. Not so these days. Sad that so many good traditions die out, but good that some still hold true.
    Another great read, thank you.

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  4. Scott, just to ask if you looked again at the comments for your last posting as I left another late one re Heydon.

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  5. I agree with "has-been pilot" (I assume that's Paul?).

    I'm sure he and I both are eagerly awaiting your retelling of that great maritime disaster, The Wreck of the Edm... er, I mean The Wreck of the Tiny Little Rubber Raft in Raccoon Lake. Or even The Mystery of the Horseshoe Grave... :-)

    Keep up the good work.

    -Jay

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  6. Maggie, I have responded to your Heydon comments on the Slippery Slope entry.

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  7. Jay,
    I honestly have considered both of those stories, but so far I can't flesh them out enough in my mind. The great sea-faring tragedy could potentially appear as a subset of another post in the future. We'll see.

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  8. Scott... it seems silly sending messages this way. I have some photos taken of Heydon if you would like me to email them? My email is maggiegray23@googlemail.com

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