I found this picture the other day. I was going through old calendars looking for the name of an author I wanted to read but could’t remember the name. I knew I had noted it in one of the dozen calendars on my shelf. After spending a lifetime forgetting books and authors, I started writing down a wee review of every book I read and the author’s name. While I was searching for that name, I found this picture tucked in a pouch in my 2011 calendar. My sister, Nancy, must have sent it to me that year. She’s been going through pictures and memorabilia and sending bits and pieces to family members. I must have put it in my calendar for safe keeping — which it was since I had totally forgotten about it for six years. If my mother was still living she would have wanted it to be hidden for another six years. I’m sure, she would have called me up and said, “Why the hell did you put that picture in your blog?”
But I like it. I like my smile and how happy I look with my arms around her and her hand on my shoulder. I like her housedress and her wavy hair and her hand hiding her face but her eyes peeking out above it. I like my little shorts and sleeveless blouse. (I seem to remember, but I might be wrong about this memory, that we little girls could wear shorts in the daytime in the summer but had to put a little dress on before we went out to the front porch to wait for Dad when he came home from work.) I like the well-lived-in house and the little striped awnings that I don’t remember ever being there. I like all the stuff lying around that I’m sure we put to use for some game or another.
I like this picture, too, because there aren’t a lot — any? — pictures from my childhood of just my mom and me. I think that’s why I wrote that caption at the top to make sure that anyone who looked at it would know that it was me. I wonder who was taking the picture and how it happened that there weren’t any of the other eleven kids around. Odds are that one would have been coming down the steps or honing in on the shot. They must have been around somewhere. That backyard was where we Eyerman kids spent most of those hot, humid, long summer vacations, so where were they?
It wasn’t a bad place to spend the summer. There was a hose and a sprinkler, a sand box under the peach tree where you could make mountains out of sand and then see who could dig a tunnel in it without bringing the whole thing down. There was Becky Eblin’s yard next door and her Kool Aid and cookie parties on the grass. There were what seemed like miles and miles of alleys behind the house covered in sharp-edged cinders to toughen up barefeet but worth the pain for all the treasures and hiding places and ghosts that lived there. There were books and books from the Linden Library to read. There were big slices of watermelon eaten on the back steps to keep the mess out of the house. There were relay races organized by my mother with puffed wheat candy for the winner — well actually, all of us got the candy. There were hollyhocks everywhere to make princess dolls in multiple colours.
And, best of all, there was our mom inside the house watching over us.
**I tried to make a Hollyhock Doll today. I couldn’t remember, all these years later, how we little girls attached the bud for the head to the blossom of the “dress.” I cheated and cut a hole with a knife.