I am participating in my ninth Slice of Life Story Challenge run by the team behind the Two Writing Teachers website. We are challenged to write a blog post a day throughout the month of March.
My uncle sent me a box, densely packed by the weight of it, several weeks ago. I knew what was in it, but couldn't bring myself to open it right away...until last night.
My husband was cleaning up odds and ends from the living room floor, and asked about the box.
"My mother's yearbooks, from my uncle," I told him.
I went ahead and opened it, took the carefully wrapped contents to the couch, and proceeded to travel back to a time just a few scant years before she would be a married mother.
I was determined to skim the books in order.
Her freshman face was broad, eyes smiling from her cheeks, hair still so dark and parted down the middle, poofing out at the sides. That year showed me uniform skirts almost down to the ankle, an all-female graduating class though there were male undergrads. The faculty members, mostly priests and nuns, were all pictured with a student, carefully posed in teaching mode. And there was a librarian--not a nun.
Her sophomore picture showed a slimmer profile, but disheveled hair...perhaps it was a windy day? Instructions for a home perm are tucked into the index, where her brother's name joins hers. She is pictured during morning prayers with her class, this young woman who told me she was known as "the heretic" in high school because she dared to ask the nuns "why".
Her junior picture is much more sophisticated--a short 'do that she would sport for much of her adult life. My grandmother is also in the yearbook, joining the staff as the study hall monitor. There is a picture of her with other faculty members in the home ec lab, enjoying a Thanksgiving meal while she chats up a priest, cigarette dangling from her fingers. Another student with the same last name is listed under my three family members, but I don't recognize her name.
Her senior picture is happy, hopeful. She has tucked a small print of her sixth grade self in that page. Her aspirations of being a secretary aren't surprising; she once showed me her shorthand skills after I came across an old textbook of hers. My grandmother, uncle, and mystery girl are also still pictured. My mother has "candid" photos with yearbook staff, decorating a Christmas tree, working a mimeograph machine.
There are other details I notice in these yearbooks. Men and boys featured before the girls (the school was segregated by gender). The uniform skirts getting shorter, and seniors not in uniform in many pictures. Most of the senior girls listed secretary as their future career; some had housewife/ homemaker. I was impressed by the few who said marine biologist, electrical engineer, mathematician; after all, the pages touted science and math classes for both genders. Along the way, my mother goes from being "Anna" to "Annie", and "Anne". There was a change of librarians, an addition of an assistant, and my own mother's stint as a library helper.
More realia was found: a Valentine card from my uncle to his sister; skillful pen and ink drawings of cars, just for her, from a (boy)friend; a color Polaroid of a stereo system, out of place in these black and white pages.
I will have to ask my uncle about the girl who shares their last name, about the boy who drew those pictures, why there were only young women in that first graduating class. I'm glad he's still here to answer those questions for me.
Was the hopeful look in my mother's high school senior eyes an inkling of the amazing life she would lead two years later as an Army wife, traveling the globe just months after being married, giving birth to me, her firstborn, half a world away?
I would like to think so.
|Ninth through twelfth grade, sixth grade at the end.|
|Home perm instructions.|
|Grandmother is center, wearing glasses|
|Grandmother's second yearbook photo|
|My mother is third from left|
|Mother on the right|
|Mom decorating a school Christmas tree|