|8" x 10"|
reserved for h. malcolm
today, more than most days, it's ringing through my head like a stuck record. i can see it now: peewee herman, dressed like a woman, riding in a convertible and posing as an escaped convict's wife, stopped by an officer at a roadblock who asks him to get out of the car.."i just wanted to take a look at that cute little outfit you have on," the officer says..."why don't you take a picture? it'll last longer," peewee says flippantly. those catch phrases of peewee's, like"i know you are but what am i" and "made you look", they became childhood anthems; at every opportunity we'd use them as backhanded, smart-alecky banter. and today: "why don't you take a picture, it'll last longer," that phrase rings truer now than at any time before in my life.
this morning: it was like any other morning. wake up, take a pee, walk to the kitchen, make tea.. rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, and james brings in the mail. two envelopes for me...a paycheck, and a card, the latter from my cousin. she's moving out of her house, going through this'n'that, and finds a photo. she sends it to me. and when i see it, i'm completely derailed.
it's a photo of me, maybe two years old, lifted on the shoulders of my parents. i'm a tiny little package with a blond mullet, chubby cheeks, and a halter top, sitting between their heads. they are young and beautiful and healthy in their summer glow, tube socks and short shorts and fluffy eighties hair, and we are all smiling so big, we're so happy, so excited to be together. a team. we're visiting my grandparents house, the mustard rambler with the shag carpet and the fancy hot-tub in the woods out back. i remember vividly: those were good times.
today, here i sit. everything turned upside down when my mom died two years ago. john prine said it best when he said "i could build me a castle of memories, just to have somewhere to go." all i have are my memories, my relics, my pictures. it's hard to grasp the reality of what has happened. especially when i look at those photos of my own mother at my age: so healthy, so full of joie de vivre. but i know i can't grovel. and luckily, that joy is one of the things she has left with me. i see my face in the mirror, i see my smile, and i see hers too. it's become part of her legacy, and my challenge: to keep that joy alive.