|Seriously, these are high school students? They were, in 1935.|
I looked at the photo and saw the faces. They were all faces of people I know, or knew once upon a time. And in those faces I saw women who are a few years older than me, not that much but certainly a difference that will never change.
And it was a picture of a bunch of fourth-graders.
I’ve always been intrigued by the way time and vision play interesting tricks on your brain. The way the years can melt off the face of someone you haven’t seen in decades or can add years to make a group picture of Girl Scouts look like the 50-something women they are now.
It doesn’t always just happen with people you know. Time and fashion have a way of making people from the past look surprisingly old to younger generations. Maybe it’s the cat-eye or granny glasses, the suit jackets or the old-fashioned hairstyles – looking at an old yearbook is akin to looking at a book filled with grandparents, even if these people are only 16 years old.
This magic is what people miss when they skip their class reunions. Even if you don’t like the people, it’s an almost supernatural phenomenon to look at a room full of strangers and within a few moments see the faces of people you have known your entire life. Bit by bit your brain puts together the pieces, making you realize if that is Joe then that must be his buddy Jim but how could it be Jim because it looks nothing like him? And then, little by little, it looks just like him.
At our 25th class reunion, I had a good friend of mine tell me that everyone said she looks exactly the same.
“I’m not sure how to feel about that,” she said.
“Feel good about it,” I said. “They see you, and that’s a nice thing.”
I don’t really have that conundrum. Some people were born with the face they keep their entire life; I am not one of those people. At that same class reunion, I was chatting with a group of friends until one of them looked at me and said, “Do I know you?” Friends I've made since high school never believe it’s me if they see my high school graduation picture.
I have an old photograph of my sisters and me when we were about ages 2, 3, 4 and 5. It was on the wall at my parents’ house and I have had a copy of it on my wall for years. In the decades that the photo has been on my wall, no one – not one person – who knows me but not my sisters has ever been able to pick me out of the photo. My sisters have characteristics in the photo that they keep to this day. Me, not so much.
It hasn’t helped, either, that throughout my life my hair color has just had a mind of its own. I have a fourth-grade photo of me, as blonde as can be. In photos from fifth and sixth grade, I’m practically brunette.
It swung back enough that when I returned for my sophomore year of college, a friend of mine didn’t recognize me after I cut my hair over the summer. “My friend Jane has long blonde hair,” he said. “You have short dark hair. What happened to my friend Jane?”
By moving back to my hometown, however, my anonymity has been somewhat shed. I may have a face that changes with the seasons, but there is one constant to it – it is the face of my mother.
This was never more apparent when I stopped by a local dress shop just before closing time and happened to find the perfect outfit for an upcoming event. I had just been out for a walk and didn’t have a checkbook or credit card on me and I asked the shop owner if she could hold it for me until the next day.
“Sure,” she said, pulling out a piece of paper to write down my name. “Which one are you?”
Not “what is your name” or “where do you live.” No, she knew I was one of the pack of girls who used to sit by her family at church. “Of course I know who you are,” she said. “You look just like your mother.”
There are worse things to hear in life, that’s for sure. If it’s not me that people see, but instead see my mother, that is something I can face just fine.
|Girl Scouts, circa 1970.|