Sunday, January 6, 2008

the way-back machine

Today we're going to take a trip in the way-back machine. This will be a regular feature here "At Home...", appearing every Sunday.

Years ago when I was working my way out of depression I did lots of therapy and at one point we did what's called photo therapy. You take a photograph and pull all the memories you can about what was happening, how you felt at the time, etc. I found this to be a great exercise for both thinking and writing. I would write a story about each photograph, based on my memories. Hope you join me each Sunday for a trip way-back.


TIME: Circa 1959
PLACE: Oak Park, Illinois


It was quite a distance, too far to consider walking, so Barbara and I saved our allowance to take the bus to Oak Park one Saturday afternoon. We exited the bus at Lake and Harlem where the Wieboldt’s and Marshall Field's stores stood on opposite corners in a retail standoff.

In those days Oak Park was considered the upscale shopping area. There certainly wasn’t much we could afford so we walked east along Lake Street window shopping at the shoe stores and dress shops. Finally we headed towards the dime store which sold the only merchandise within our paltry budget.

I headed towards the back where the photo booth was located. I’ve always been in love with the photo booth genre. With a curtain separating you from the real world you could pose freely and imagine yourself to be any number of characters. In one of the photos above I was pretending to be an ethereal beauty instead of the hopeless dork that was my reality.

Barbara had treated herself to an ice cream float at the lunch counter. As I exited the photo booth she turned the stool to face me.

“I really want that lipstick I was looking at,” she said. “But after paying for the float I’ve only got enough for the bus fare back home.”

I was in the same situation, having spent my money on a string of photos that smelled faintly like egg salad.

It was then that she hatched the plan, the crime spree. She told me that she was going to slip the Tangee color-change lipstick into her pocket and that I should take the twirly rhinestone hair ornaments I’d been looking at earlier.

It’s not that I’m trying to put the blame for the crime spree entirely on Barbara. But the truth is that I was too dumb and too na├»ve to dream up something like that. The plan didn’t sound like such a good idea but Barbara’s glare was insistent. She went first and then I palmed the small package of hair ornaments and casually tucked my hand in my pocket.

I remember feeling instantly sick. Barbara marched out confidently and I followed with the demeanor of a sheep being led to slaughter. We walked towards the bus stop and I was sure at any moment the store manager would come up from behind and tap me on the shoulder.

He didn’t though, and I boarded the bus with the stolen rhinestones in my pocket. For a week those things stayed hidden in my dressing table, wrapped in a lace hanky. Every time I opened the drawer it was a grim reminder of my new status as a thief. I couldn’t imagine what I’d been thinking. Look at the hair! Does that look like the type of hair that would hold a twisty-wire rhinestone hair ornament? Get real I told myself. You’re a dork, you’re not a member of the bouffant crowd. Ratted, teased and sprayed bouffant hair was made for rhinestones.

"You may be a dork," I told myself, "but I don't think you're cut out to be a dishonest dork."

I had great plans for my next week’s allowance but instead it was spent on bus fare back to Oak Park, back to the dime store where I slipped the unopened package back on the shelf.

I learned a lesson that week and I’m not quite sure it’s something you can learn from mom lecturing you. Some things are best learned the hard way.

Join me tomorrow when we're going to talk about Cross Creek.


smilnsigh said...

Dear Farmer's Wife,
I just saw a comment by you {right below the last comment I left} in Dear Corey's blog. Saying you live vicariously through her. Me too! Me too!

You are "stuck" on the Illinois prairie, and I am "stuck" in a small city in upper NYS. I'm a wife, mother and grandmother {'Nana'}. Whose biggggggggggggg excitement is taking photos. -grin-

So you being there, dealing with coyotes and runaway hogs, sounds exciting to me! ,-)

But me too! My life is in need of some adventure and elegance. And Dear Corey does gladly provide thus, for us.

Plus, she's a sweetheart! A kind of an ordinary gal. Who just happens to be married to a gorrrrrgeous French man. Have beautiful children. And live in a fantastic meilu.<---{that's supposed to be a fancy word for the fancy way she lives, but I can't spell. -giggles-} And on top of all that, she won over cancer. And keeps a wonderful attitude toward all of life.

Mmmmmm, if we hadn't seen pictures, we might think she was "made up" hu? But it surely seems that she's for real, by now. :-)

So, Hi from another gal, who is so in need of her daily dose of Corey!


smilnsigh said...

Great 'way-back' memory. Yes, a great lesson learned, and never to be forgotten. Because you taught it to yourself.

Thank you for sharing.

And I'm not a prude {any more -grin-} but I'm so glad you took it back.


Zanne said...

Mari-Nanci - You make the perfect point concerning perspective. From my perspective (and yours) Corey's life is positively exotic. But as I have found in publishing my photoblog people from around the world find rural Illinois exotic! I almost fell off the chair laughing one time wqhen I got an e-mail from someone in northern Africa. He'd posted some very dramatic photos of a gigantic sandstorm blowing across the Sahara desert, bearing down upon an ancient and tiny town. I'd made a comment on how fantastic and exotic his image was. He was blown away by my photos of old barns and pigs! So, yes, it's all about point of view.

Thanks for visiting and be sure to come back!