At four years old, life was pretty good at 524 Elm Avenue and, of course, I had no idea that it would ever change. My six-year-old sister had known how to tie her shoes for a long time so she helped me with mine. That speeded things up a bit for me every morning because my mother was very busy getting the baby ready for the day. I was never allowed to go outside without my shoes. For me, outside was where life happened and inside was where we had to go to eat and sleep so we could stay well enough to go outside! My older sister taught me a lot of other things, too. She was helping me learn how to color inside the lines and that green was a good color for grass but not so much for the face of the lady on my coloring page. I had a little sister who, finally could walk and play ball with me, kind of. At fifteen months, she was not all that coordinated but, at least, she was interested in chasing the big ball I threw to her. I figured that she would get better with practice. Then, one late summer morning, change invaded my little cocoon of happiness.
I had already been playing outside when Daddy came to join me, camera in hand. As he checked on lighting and angles, my sister came out of the house all dressed in a new outfit and brown/white saddle shoes. Since I had only my usual play clothes on, this was a puzzle to me. Why was she dressed like that? My questions were not answered right away but I did not care because Daddy told her to fetch the tricycle and sit on it. I was told to stand on the back of the trike and hold on to her shoulders. I loved to ride the trike with my sister. Daddy filmed us as she rode with me on the sidewalk in front of our home. I hung on and Donna turned and smiled at Daddy and his camera as she pedaled. My father had placed wooden squares on the pedals of the tricycle so that my shorter legs could reach them, too. My sister had been trying to teach me how to ride it myself. I much preferred to be on the trike with her, though, so this was a super start to the day. Little did I know just why Daddy had chosen this particular morning to film his little darlings!
Daddy signaled that we should ride over to the steps where he was waiting with several of our little Golden storybooks in his hands. Oh boy, I thought. This was really a great morning! Daddy was going to read to us now. Instead, however, he handed Donna the storybooks and hoisted up his heavy movie camera. Well, okay, more filming first; then he will read, I figured. Daddy directed Donna to bend her arm and hold the colorful books on the camera side. Of course, I was right beside her, gazing at our familiar storybooks with hopeful expectation.
“Go ahead and walk now, smiling at the camera,” Daddy told my sister. I ran to catch up to her until my father’s voice stopped me in my tracks.
“No, just Donna this time. Move away from her now; Daddy just wants to film Donna on her way to school.” What? How can it be that Daddy is telling me to move away? He never tells me to move away and is usually trying to coax me into the picture and do the smile-thing! What can this mean? I ran into the house to find my mother.
“Mama, Daddy told me to move away,” I said to my mother who was seated at her vanity table, applying the final touches to her makeup. “He won’t let me be in the picture.” Tears were streaming down my cheeks. “Tell him to let me be in the picture, Mama, pleeease! I want to be in the picture, too!” Sobs just wracked my little body as my shoulders shook.
“Its okay, Honey. Daddy just wants to take some pictures of Donna because it is her first day of school. That’s all; it’s not that he doesn’t want you to be in the pictures. Just not this one.” Mother’s words of consolation fell on deaf ears, however.
“But I want to be in this picture, too, Make him let me be in the picture, Mama.” My mother reached out her arms and wrapped them around my sorrow-filled little self. Perhaps, she knew that it had nothing to do with having one more photo or one more minute of film taken of me; but, in fact, it had everything to do with change. For the first time ever in my life, my father was filming an event with my sister that did not include me. Why? What could it mean? Oh, there had been plenty of photo shoots that were a major struggle for my photographer father because I did not want my picture taken as opposed to my older sister who was a photographer’s dream child… posing ever so perfectly with that smile on demand! Not me, ha! The year before this traumatic event in my life, my father and mother had just totally given up on me and took the portrait photo of their three-year-old grimacing and crying. I had been dressed in my Sunday best, cute little bonnet tied with a ribbon under my chin and bitter tears streaming down my face while I protested loudly “But, I don’t want my picture taken.” This day was different somehow. I could not verbalize it; I just knew something was wrong with the morning.
Of course, I had known about school and we passed the elementary school just about every time we drove our car anywhere. Since no one in our family went to school, it didn’t really matter much that there was a school seven blocks from our house. Now, all that had changed. My older sister had reached that magic age and it was her very first day of school. I cried for a long time after she left that morning. Life would never be the same in our house again. Who would tie my shoes for me so I could run outside before breakfast? Who would help me color the pages or play with the Old Maid cards? And, what about the trike; who would help me learn to pedal it myself if my sister had to be in school all day? No question about it: I could not see any good coming out of this change!
****Life 101:Change, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow