There are very few pictures of any of us children alone. Because I was there, and because this is a picture of eight-year-old me, I can take my own liberties in talking about how this image feels to me.
This was taken during the few ‘proving up on the homestead’ months that mother pulled us out of school and taught us on the homestead the winter of my 3rd grade, 1959-1960. Overall, we were in the throws of having an adventure, something close enough to my mother’s fairy tale version of life that it qualified to mostly override the ‘evil devil child Linda’ fairy tale that most often formed the fabric of my life.
I understand that her Borderline child’s fantastic mad mind, that broke by the time she was five years old, was more comfortable in a world where dogs can talk than in one where she was a real adult woman, a real mother, with real — not pretend, make believe doll baby children — had needs, very few of which she was able to adequately meet.
I know what this picture feels like from the inside. I am a frozen child, as if I was cut out and glued into this picture. I show no indication of even knowing that Smokey is there. Nothing in my body ‘language’ shows a response except that I am looking at the holder of the camera – my mother.
I am as frozen in place as are the banks of snow, the rising hills and mountains piercing the sky. I am as distant and remote as they — even from my own experience of feeling a part of my own life.
Of course, that is what photographs are meant to do – to freeze a slice of time for us. Children are supposed to be warm blooded, breathing growing people with a pulse and a beating heart — full of wonder and feelings.
I know I am wearing – and outgrowing – in this picture the same turquoise jacket that I wore in first grade and was severely punished for getting the white ruff dirty.
I would have to give this picture my personal name of “Child Frozen in Place and Time.” I never STOPPED being more of a camera lens observer-participant that a child in my childhood. The individual experiences of my life were separated snapshots – piles of them – like the pictures I have to work with here that are all mixed up, fire, smoke, water damaged – but still here.
They mean nothing without the order. They mean nothing without the context. And I did not have a context as a child. I simply endured, survived and existed.
Under picture mother wrote: Smokey telling Linda “And I want Santa to bring me a bone.” — It strikes me that she could not even relate to ME as a individual CHILD in this picture — the dog had a more real identity than I did to her — I was a frozen cut-out of a child pasted into whatever scene I happened to find myself in at any point in time and space –
5 thoughts on “*Age 8 – Photograph – Me, Smokey and Snow”
Did you love this dog? It seems, in this picture, he loved you.
These pictures are stunning–you look so sad–so “out of sync”. The group pictures show you off to the right with your father turned away from you. The other children are relaxed, smiling, and you were rigid, hands at your side or clasped. These pictures really tell the story of an abused child more than any written words could………….
I don’t know if I loved Smokey. Smokey belonged to and with the family I did not belong to/with — I know I loved that black rabbit, Peter. Peter, while he lived, was MINE and was in my world and I was in his.
(there’s a childhood story about Peter)
I think I was too constantly dissociated to feel anything past the moment it was actually happening in — but no continuity or ‘continuation-ness’ between experiences.
I don’t recall the handwritten book of country songs, although I certainly remember dad singing some of them. Such a clear, sweet voice, singing The Wandering Traveler song. But, the book of hand-tied fishing flies! An oft-repeated childhood activity was to open that book of flies, touch and examine each one, smell the pages — they were made of felt and had an odor peculiar to only this book — and marvel that dad had made these himself. It’s funny to imagine that not only John, but I, loved this book of flies. Who else? And, I wonder what happened to it? On the homestead, at least some years, it was kept out in the shed, and there was a large fishing reel of dad’s out there as well. Dad was such a mystery, and these little glimpses into the “real” Bill Lloyd seem to serve the purpose of that mystery, as if our father was some other person with whom we could never have a relationship, but merely stand in awe of him, and admire his artificats.
To me, Dad’s quiet complicity is far harder to accept, to get a handle on. Mom was obviously a deeply disturbed person, completely incapable of empathy. While she left a trail of devastation in her wake and a well self-documented written record of what she wanted others to see, Dad is far more enigmatic. I remember the small notebook of country songs he had copied, and the book of hand-tied fishing flies he had made from before his marriage- things I treasured as a boy. What happened to that man?
You know, even for my estimation of 14,500 years prison time mother would have earned herself in a just and fair world, and for all the time I spent doing my research, and now with her letters, I have never lost a sense of sweet compassion for her — that she could have been that wounded and broken. In her un-sick state, mother is precious to me. I guess my term I use for all this is ‘informed compassion’.
“What happened to that man?” —
I have never “processed” father inside of myself — and it seems because I haven’t I don’t yet have this ‘informed compassion’ for him — yet. Maybe that’s what I want, what I’m searching for — it is all inside ME.