Friday, September 18, 2009
Geez, I really suck at identifying the years these pictures were taken, and they're old enough that I wasn't in charge of the photos; therefore, they have no useful information on the back of them. Fortunately, I know exactly who is in this one, and where we were. Little did I know on this summer day in 1981 (I think), I was sitting in my future front yard--back then, it was my Granny and Grandpop's house.
I'm sure this wasn't a special occasion, as I'm just as sure that it was a Sunday. Our parents were long-divorced by this time, and Dad was remarried to Edna. Greg and I visited Dad every other weekend during this span, and every Sunday we were with him, we would go to Granny's for our traditional after-church spaghetti lunch. This was one of those days, without a doubt. (You see, I know this because my hair is curled!) We would have gotten up and gone to church (kicking and screaming, and probably wearing a pleated skirt that I loathed and the leather slip-on shoes with a heel and a tiny leather bow on the toe that I wanted desperately to take home to Mom's with me every weekend), then to Granny's, where we would change out of the church clothes and into our roughneck clothes as soon as we could.
I remember that outfit. Mom and Dad both had graduated from Madison College, which would later become James Madison University. So, I proudly lived in the Madison t-shirt, at least until I...ummm...developed a little more than the shirt allowed. [It's another story entirely, but the shirt just reminded me of the day that Dad (yes, DAD) took me to what is now the Dollar General store (anyone remember what it used to be? I think it was something else then) and bought me my very first "training" bras...with little pink and yellow bows on the front. Man, what was with me and the little bows? I was a TOMBOY, can't you tell? But I loved those bows!] Those jeans, on the other hand, were awful. They were brand new, they were dark, and they were stiff. They were also clearly a little too long--check out those rolled-up cuffs--and the pleat down the front just would NOT go away.
That stump sat in Granny's front yard for a very long time, a remnant of a felled tree that Granny decided she needed to keep, probably just to have something to put that frog on. As for that frog...well, he wasn't alone in the yard. Whether Granny actively sought more of those lawn ornaments, or just feigned a positive reaction to one she received as a gift, I'm not sure. But she ended up with many of those kitschy little things before all was said and done. The frog ended up with a little brother frog, there were a few small does nestled under a bush by the front wall, and of course, there was the GNOME, which still sits on my porch steps. The rest my brother adopted when we were clearing the house after Granny's death, and I hope they're still gracing his yard with their presence.
My brother's going through a difficult time in his life right now. Although, if you asked him, he'd probably say his whole life has been difficult, and he's right, to a certain extent. While so much of our childhood, such as the day this picture was taken, is looked back on with a nostalgic, almost idyllic, focus, there's so much more of it that was traumatic and heartbreaking. There are things that just can't be left behind, baggage that we carry with us, and which affects our personalities and moods, and the decisions we make as adults. It's in my nature, and it's part of my baggage that I instinctively want to protect him and take the brunt of whatever the storm is--it was, and is, my job as a big sister. But it's not so easy as an adult. I can't solve his problems, make choices, or fight his battles for him, but I wish I could, and it's always hard to keep myself from jumping in. What I've been wishing lately for him is to be able to see the bright spots and to be able to recognize life's challenges as B.S. that everyone just has to deal with. That little boy beside me on the tree trunk was full of mischief and spirit, and the grown man he turned out to be is too.
I'm at a loss as to how to end this post. I didn't really envision this level of seriousness when I chose the picture or started writing. I guess what I want to say, even though I know he won't read this is, "I love you, bro, and don't let the shit get you down. I'm proud of the good man and the incredible father that you've become, and I want to kick the shit out of anyone who doesn't recognize that or treat you right. You deserve better than you're getting now in most areas of your life, and you have earned the right to cut yourself some slack sometimes."