|Norma Jean, PJ, and me|
It's painful to think of Mama working so hard to have us look so perfectly turned out, because it meant, in my memory, that she was anxious and requiring her children to be impeccable, and I was anything but. Daddy took the picture using his camera and Kodachrome, which he probably didn't develop himself. He was a bit of a camera buff, and when we were growing up he had his own darkroom for developing his black-and-white pictures. I remember once when he let me stay inside in the darkroom during the development process. The smell of the chemicals was very strong, and I was careful not to disturb anything. Maybe Daddy hoped I would want to become a photographer.
Not long after that, I was given my first camera, a Brownie, which used 127 film and advanced the film by turning a knob on the top of the camera. If you didn't advance it, the camera would simply take another image on top of the previous one. I ended up taking quite a few pictures with that camera and wonder where they all ended up. I don't think any of them have survived. Of course, it was partly because we were a military family and moved every few years for most of the time I was growing up. One period, when Daddy was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, we stayed for quite a few years. PJ was born there, and this picture is from that time period.
In many ways I wish I had taken up photography at that time, because then I would have preserved many memories that are simply gone forever. When I look at that picture, I can remember that back yard and the time we spent there, even though it's more than half a century ago. Now that everything is digital, and film has gone the way of the horse and buggy, I have plenty of pictures. Not many of them are ever printed, but I could if I wanted. I've got numerous albums on my computer, some filled with old scanned pictures from the past, and many taken since we moved here, six years ago.
How quickly time passes. It's been six years since I retired from my job, and I culled my belongings, getting rid of much of the detritus of everyday life that I felt I no longer needed. This is a habit I developed as I was growing up, knowing that when we would move to a new location, I would only be able to take a small part of my previous life along with me. Some people are born and grow up in one place, and I can only imagine what that would be like.
When my father retired from the Air Force, the family moved to Fort Worth and bought a home on Lake Worth. My three youngest siblings all had the advantage of growing up in one place, while the three older ones didn't. They were all young enough to start school there, and they had the same childhood friends throughout their entire lives. I can hardly imagine it, and they are my siblings.
Some of PJ's childhood friends were present at the celebration of her life. They were strangers to me, because I had left home before Mama and Daddy had moved into their lake home. Of course I visited, and once when I was experiencing a particularly bad time in my life, I lived in Fort Worth for several months and even got a job in a downtown office. I remember that I was required to wear dresses, no pantsuit allowed, along with heels and hose every day. My brother and his friend Victor and I decided to take evening karate classes during this time, and Victor, who came to PJ's memorial, reminded me of that time. It must have meant a great deal to him; I had completely forgotten it until he mentioned it.
As I sit here in the dark, partner asleep next to me, laptop throwing light into the room, I think back over the past few weeks. When I decided to travel to Florida for a ten-day vacation, I had no idea what would really transpire during that time. I was sitting here in this bed at this same time two weeks ago when the phone rang, and it was Norma Jean telling me that PJ had died. Last Sunday when I wrote my post, I was in Buz's home and we had gathered the day before to say goodbye to my sister PJ. Now I am back in my own environment, one that is familiar and reassuring, and the past week is beginning to fade.
With all the turmoil, I caught a cold and am recovering. My sore throat is beginning to let up a little, and the sneezing and coughing are at a minimum. I slept last night without taking any cold medication and think I've turned the corner. Although I am still not completely well, I am taking good care of myself; my diet is back to normal and all my favorite foods are in the fridge, thanks to Smart Guy. By this time next week, when I'm hopefully sitting here writing, the cold should be a memory along with all that has transpired in the past few weeks.
Until then, please take care of yourselves, and I'll do the same, I promise. And don't forget to give your loved ones a hug, or a phone call, because you just never know...