The Lake House (Continuing)

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jen at lake house

Jennifer and Cindy, Christmas morning, 1972

Beyond helping me to remember when events happened, having children gave me a reason to take pictures. For years, I took pictures every day! I bought one role of film every week with groceries. I had to! I could see my daughter changing, learning, growing…how could I not record the process?

When my husband and I sat down to discuss the budget, the amount I spent at the grocery store was  an issue. We were always behind on payments. Utilities were often on the verge of being turned off. The rent – owed to my husband’s parents – was constantly behind. After a year or so of that arrangement, they offered to sell us the house, with the agreement that we would actually make the payments. Fair enough, it seemed. After that, we were constantly behind on the land contract. Other than my husband’s allowance (for gas for his truck, coffee or lunches at the restaurant, cigarettes if he ran out, a night out to “practice with the band”), groceries were the only variable expense. Since he felt his allowance was sacred and untouchable, cuts had to be made in the grocery bill.

Item by item, we would talk it through. I was a careful shopper, so food was rarely an issue. Sometimes it was suggested that I cut out some of the fresh fruits or vegetables, but that argument never went far. I didn’t buy pop, beer or snack foods. Paper diapers, baby food and formula were a necessity, when we had a baby in the house. No argument there. Sometimes I had to defend one cleaning product or another, but that was easy enough. I wasn’t a very good housekeeper, so anything to encourage me was okay. Then it came to my wasteful, unnecessary purchases. I defended them so often, I can remember the words exactly.

“Yes, one skein of yarn! One dollar and thirty-nine cents, only. I am working on Christmas presents. That afghan for your parents [never finished, by the way], the slippers, the toys…”

Family Circle magazine is my only luxury! Thirty-five cents! How is it going to fix our budget, even if I give up the one thing I buy just for myself??” [I poured over those magazines and saved them as if they were gold…or National Geographic!]

“One role of film! Isn’t our daughter worth one role of film?”

So, I always had film, and I took pictures every day. Unfortunately, there was no money for developing the film (that was another argument, categorized under “the sacrifices I have made”). Years later, when I sent them off to Fuji Film for processing, most of the photos came back blurry and dark. Of those, it seems like the best ones have gone: to the baby books I put together for my daughters; to Terry, after our divorce, so he’d have some of the baby pictures, too; to my children and grandchildren when something caught their eye. Just because of the sheer quantity, I still have a few blurry images.

From them, it is definitely clear what a cute little girl I had, but it’s not really possible to get an idea of the layout of our little house. Because I’ve wasted so much time reliving arguments and laying the groundwork, the actual inside of the Lake House will have to wait.

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