Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More snapshots

The chest I was re-organizing over the past weekend yielded more treasures, surprises, and memories than the photos of my mother I posted the other day. Even going back 18 years, as in the photo above (taken as part of my parents' 40th anniversary celebration), provided some jolts -- first of all, after marvelling at how fortunate I am in my family's good looks and health (sorry, but being falsely modest seems an ungracious acknowledgement of my blessings), I remembered how much I'd loved that outfit I'm wearing -- a two-piece of a surprisingly serviceable rayon, if I'm not mistaken, I think by Esprit, altho'it might be Mexx. . .

And finally, I note aspects of myself that I'm quite sure I didn't appreciate and revel in as much as I should have -- a firmness of chin and neck, just to give a simple example, or, say, an openness between brow and eye. . . I suspect that instead of revelling in these elements of my not-quite-40 looks, I complained about a few pounds here, a wrinkle there.

I also came across a studio portrait of myself at 17, about to graduate from high school, wearing the dress our neighbour had handed down from her daughter's prom, which we had altered for me but which I never wore because I wasn't asked. There were many contributing reasons for this, the usual adolescent torments compounded by the fact that I had transferred in Grade 11 to a co-ed school of 2700 students from an all-girls'private school of 140 and by my parents' strictness which forbade dating during high school (while I could have, would have, and occasionally did find ways around this, it kept me at the cautious fringes, without the skills to encourage or prompt any possible male to make the right move). At our school, there was a lottery for the dateless, but I wasn't desperate enough to take advantage of it -- instead, for years, I might even admit to decades, I was embarrassed -- ashamed, even -- to tell people that I hadn't gone to my prom because I didn't have a date. But my parents -- my mom, especially -- thought I should still get a photo of myself dressed as if for prom.

The photo's below, but let me build up to it by saying that, coincidentally, this weekend, I also came across a poem, "Snapshot," by Canadian poet Alden Nowlan (1933-1983) that I'd copied and pinned to a bulletin board quite a few years ago, and forgotten about:

It takes even more than this to make you cry
or laugh
when you are old enough
to find a forgotten snapshot of yourself,

take it up in your hands,
hold it close to the light,

discover slowly
and for the first time

that once
long ago
you were almost


If only she could have known . . .

If only we could convince our daughters . . .


  1. What beautiful photographs! And your family are indeed gorgeous. How pretty you are in that photograph and what a shame you never went to the prom - but I think you've had the sort of life that makes up for it? I am going to copy and print out that poem right now.

  2. I'm not surprised that Paul snapped you up a few years hence!! :0)
    I'm with you on looking at past photos and noticing the changes in the mirror - if only we could have known, indeed. Anyway, that's a gorgeous family snap. Patricia

  3. Such an emotive post, thank you.
    I think the pressure teenagers put themselves under in order to have the perfect prom often negates the enjoyment, still it is sad that you did not go, yet like many things that might matter at the time the memory fades as quickly as it's significance.
    I WISH I had read this poem as a teenager, I was horribly lacking in confidence yet like you realise I should have revelled in the toned skin and lithe body.
    Your family photograph is all the more precious when comapred to I who have none! The down side of being in a 'step family' I am sad to say.

  4. I have read this post twice and find myself welling up with emotion...you've definitely touched me.
    Our daughters are generally much better equipped emotionally from our progress in the area of acceptance and confidence that has evolved through the women's movement of the 70's and 80's.
    I love that poem!
    You ARE beautiful.

  5. Tiffany: Thanks! and yes, isn't it a lovely poem -- rather surprising that it was written by a man, really. And absolutely, my life after high school more than made up for not going to the prom!
    Patricia: It's not too late to start, right? I suspect in another decade or two, I'll look at photos taken this year and wish I'd appreciated my current looks more!

  6. IndieAl: All three of my daughters would agree with you on prom being overrated -- how could it not be given the silly amounts spent, the expectations raised?
    I agree that I'm stunningly lucky in family -- we're not nearly as smug as that photo might suggest, really!
    Hostess: Thank you! Yes, our daughters have benefited greatly from the women's movement and are much more confident than our generation might have been. They're still pretty susceptible during those teen years, though, don't you think?

  7. You look beautiful in the picture! Same goes with the family picture. I feel, that I turn out just awful in photos, so I don´t wish them taken of me. Now, looking back at some of the pictures, which were taken anyways, I am somewhat surprised; I look quite ok. Most of us are just too hard on ourselves.

  8. Metscan: We really are -- I'm hoping to learn to appreciate myself, including my looks, better, knowing I'll probably once again look back and marvel, as I now do at my younger selves. I do acknowledge, though, that photos can be frustrating as they seldom express how we know ourselves from the inside out.

  9. I am so moved by that girl in her handed-down dress, smiling "as if" she were going. They thought you "should", but do you remember how you felt, posing? I'm thinking of Philip Larkin poem "This Be the Verse"- though his summation is far harsher. Then fast forward to your family photo, the happy future, now the happy past- and happy present.

  10. Adorable family, great post. And i can see the kids didn't get their gorgeous hair from the neighbors, either!

  11. I'm still in Belgium, and vowing not to comment on blogs so as to focus on my time here, but, but, I just had to say yes to all of this.

  12. Duchesse: Larkin is undoubtedly correct, but I'm glad his poem turns to consider the larger context in which they do fuck us up . . . I always felt mine were doing their best, even as I resented them hugely (partly my eldest child syndrome . . . )
    Dana: Cheekily put, but you're right the whole apple/tree deal is pretty clear in that photo, isn't it?!
    LPC: Thanks so much for taking a minute from your precious visiting time -- means a lot! Now go back and enjoy Belgium!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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