A collage of photographs hangs on a wall in my dining room. An arrangement of black and whites set against various magazine clippings, cut to perfection. It really is quite a work of art. And tonight, as I walked through the room, I stopped and stared. It was as if I had seen these photos for the first time, one in particular.
A round faced girl sits squinting into the sunlight, staring at something unknown. She is thinking. And behind her sits a young man, squinting into the sunlight, staring at the girl. They are sitting on the railroad tracks that run behind the old Depot in Shawnee. They are so young. My engagement photos, taken five years ago this very month. And while I remember the day well, riding in my broken-up Chevy Cavalier with the windows down, Toni and Kara in the backseat and Luke driving about to the various desireable locations Toni had scouted for these pictures, I realized that I do not remember this girl. And as I sat in a bath tonight, I tried to think of who she was, and who she has become.
In the picture, I marvel at the svelte contours of a body that has not known childbirth, and I see the puffs of baby fat in her cheeks that have since been outgrown. Her eyes are steely and determined, and her posture is aloof, even unto the man she will soon marry. I see she is defensive. But what about the things I cannot see?
I remember that she still thought she would be a defense attourney and hated the very idea of having children. She cared more about being a size six than about being healthy. She had a propensity toward unkindness, but was feircely loyal. She loved clothes. She hated to be shushed. And she smoked too much. She held fast to radical political beleifs. She argued with everyone. Devil's Advocate was not just a game. She claimed to be Agnostic.
Her foresight was limited. She did not expect to spend years fighting for the acceptance of her in-laws. She did not know she would drop out of school before her wedding even came. She did not know that in a few short months, she would be effectively fired from a job she loved. She did not know she would spend months working eighty hours a week for peanuts and then shuffle off to Chicago only to fail at big-city life. She would not know about moving to Dallas, Norman, Wyoming. She would not know then that life is never measured by what you do, but rather by who you are.
She knew nothing of love. She knew nothing of loss. She would not have expected anguish over two lost embryos, or have expected such great joy over the two that succeeded. She would never have been a stay-at-home-mom. She would never have so vehemently protected her privacy and relationship with that man by whom she sat. She would not have expected to so easily follow him to the ends of the earth on a whim, despite those ever-nearing vows. I know she did not know what life would bring her, or she would probably have fought harder against the tide. She did not know her life would be wonderful. I know she still wondered where she would be if she had taken pre-acceptance to Harvard. Well, she still wonders that. But she looked down her nose at those she found did not meet her standards intellectually, economically and socially. She had no sense of community. She had no sense of self.
But as I looked at her, I felt awed. I realized that though I do not remember her well, I do KNOW her. Little pieces of her still lurk about in corners of my head. On those days when you wish yourself out of your life, you look back at those photographs in your head and walk yourself down another path. Because life is always bittersweet with wondering. She reminds me to keep wishing and wanting more. But now, I wish for more and want more, not just for myself. I prefer it that way.
And so I will leave her just where she is, hanging on the wall, squinting out at something unknown. Thinking. And I will hope that when I pass that picture, that will be the message to which I cling. Look outward, cling to the unkown, think. Because who knows where you will be five years from now.