There’s a photo of my daughter, Jen, that hangs, right now, in my kitchen. Above it is the round kitchen clock, with its sweeping second hand to mark precise time. Below it is a wood-framed photo of my other daughter, Kate, in profile, that I took for a photography class. In other homes, at other times, Jen’s picture has been displayed in living room or bedroom, but it always has a place of distinction.
The photo was taken when Jen was four years old. My husband’s uncle was visiting us in our townhouse apartment in Lapeer, Michigan. He had an impressive new camera, and fancied himself to be quite a capable photographer. He snapped the picture as Jen stood in front of the sliding glass doors, looking out onto our little patio. Later, he presented it to us, simply framed, as a Christmas gift. It was not my favorite.
Jen had beautiful big eyes and a bright smile. Her dark hair framed her little face perfectly, and her expressions were wonderful. This picture, taken from the back, shows none of that. She was wearing hand-me-down, elastic-waist denim pants that had a black and brown snakeskin pattern. They were a little long, and bunched awkwardly around her ankles. Her turtleneck top looks rumpled, too. The light from the window emphasizes her uncombed hair. Lost in her own thoughts, the thumbs of both hands, double-jointed, are poking out in odd directions.
Because it was a thoughtful gift, I held onto it, though it wasn’t the best picture of my daughter. As the years went by, it gained nostalgic value. Oddly, as Jen grew older, this image seemed to capture her true nature more than any other. By the time she was an adult, this photograph was a treasure!