Post a photo of yourself from before age 10.
Write about what you remember of the day the photo was taken.
For my fourth birthday, all I wanted was a Jane West doll. Jane was a cowgirl, yes she was, and that’s who I wanted to be. The day came and I put on my blue party dress and waited, anticipation running through my mind like Flame, Jane’s trusty horse. Presents were opened, no Jane.
Still, I waited. At long last, my Nana handed me a box. I ripped the paper off, and there she was. Or so I thought. It was indeed a Jane West box, but inside was a new… outfit. My birthday balloon instantly burst. I’m pretty sure there were tears.
After all my gifts were opened (still no Jane), an old paper bag was placed in front of me, crumpled, unassuming. I peeked inside, and there she was. And there were smiles, and laughter all around. Was it a cruel joke to play on a four-year-old? Perhaps. But that was my grandmother, a strong, flawed woman who raised eight children practically by herself, worked full-time as a nurse, and had a slightly twisted sense of humor.
I believe, now, that she was trying to teach me lesson. I had talked non-stop about Jane for months. My grandmother came from poverty, a place where you made do with what you had, or didn’t have. I think, looking back, that her intentions weren’t as cruel as her joke. But I still remember the sting of that misguided betrayal.
Fast forward eight months.
My family, along with my aunt and her six kids, went camping for summer vacation. Three adults, ten kids, one large canvas army tent.
And here’s what happened: It rained. All week. The old tent was not waterproof, if you touched it from the inside, water would begin seeping through. Which my dad made the mistake of telling us. So we all had to test his theory, and he was right. As soon as you touched it, just a little fingertip…a drip would form, and then another, and then another. Pretty soon it was as wet inside the tent as it was outside.
That was our week.
On the last day, we packed up our soggy camp, planning to attend a birthday party on the way home. I put on my blue dress. On our way out of the park, I asked to use the bathroom. My parents stopped by the side of the road and pointed me in the right direction, there, across a field of grass. (You could do that back then). I took off running. Somewhere between the car and the building, bam! I went down, face first into a puddle hidden in the grass. When I stood up, I was literally covered in mud from head to toe. But no one in the car had seen. I ran into the bathroom, bawling my eyes out. My party dress! Ruined.
I stood inside the door, sobbing, no idea what to do. A girl, 13 or 14, approached me and asked if I was okay. I’m sure I bawled out some sort of unintelligible response. And then she took paper towel after paper towel and wiped me as clean as she could, and walked me back to our car.
Most girls her age would have laughed. She did not. And I still remember the comfort of that small act of kindness.
Same dress, different day.
A blue party dress that taught me, at age four, a little bit about life, expectation, the hurt that only comes from those you love, and the kindness you find when you least expect it.
this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.
this story was also my first contribution over at Vision & Verb a few years back, but it fit this prompt so perfectly that I decided to re-post it today.