In this weeks writing challenge, the friendly folk at the DPChallenge, provided a photo to which participants were to provide the story. If you read my blog postcardfiction then you know I do this weekly. However, this one proved to me more of a challenge than I originally anticipated. I usually rely heavily on metaphors derived from nature. This one was a family photo and I tried to be literal. Let me know what you think.
Mom’s motto was ‘always go out looking your best’ even if your best was impractical for the event. Mom was the woman who wore heels to the park. She wore white gloves to walk the dog and pearls to cook dinner. If everyone looked perfect, then life was just that. Perfect.
Mom recorded our family life with her Kodak camera. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Birthdays. Each deserved one well framed shot of her well-dressed family, smiling their perfect smiles. Mom didn’t want the chaos and messes that came with families. She craved only the moments where people would walk into our house, look at our family portrait and say, “My, what a beautiful family.”
This photo, my favorite, taken on a chilly November day on our way to the Toronto Santa Claus parade, was not up to Mom’s high standards; never graced with one of her sterling silver frames.
It was the kind of morning where the chill nestled deep inside your bones and your breath was so frosty you’d pretend to blow smoke rings. And we were freezing. While our friends were dressed in snowsuits and wrapped in blankets, their mothers with thermoses of hot chocolate doling out mugs of warmth during the long wait, we were dressed in our Sunday best.
She had picked my pink outfit because she wanted to see it on film. A lot of thought had gone into this — the color which would best complement Dad and Michael’s grey and the boxwood hedge behind us. Spontaneity didn’t exist in her world. Yet, despite her meticulous planning, it didn’t quite go as planned. We are not smiling. Cold and frustrated, Mom asked for too much when she demanded we hold our breath so that we didn’t fog up our faces. Michael and I were at our limit but Dad held us there, squeezing our hands tightly, silently imploring us to let Mom get her way. He knew only too well what Mom was like when she didn’t.
With our photo behind us, we headed downtown by subway. My legs, freezing, my feet, smarting, from last year’s patent leather shoes, I was content to just sit there and be warm. Exiting, we were swept up into the crowd of excited, jovial Torontonians of all ages — everyone waiting for the floats and clowns and candy tossed to the children. It felt like the entire city was there. Jumping up to catch candy canes, Mom said I could collect them and put it in my purse for later so that I didn’t dirty my dress. Mike had to stuff his in his pockets, but since we arrived so late and were so far away from the road, no candy came our way.
As the first float slowly made it way down the street, Mike and I realized we couldn’t see a thing. Children screamed and cheered. I burst into tears. Dad looked at me, looked at Mom, then picked me up, oh so very high, and placed me on a large brick wall surrounding the University of Toronto. Then he picked up Michael too and placed him beside me. We were on top of the world. I could see Christmas. I could see magic. With a white glove, dirtied from the wall, I waved at Santa.
Later, when we returned home, we still had no hot chocolate or candy, but that photo…that memory… stands out in blazing kodachrome, in a childhood full of grey.