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 –