Janet Sheridan: Three meaningful selfies
Relatives, including my mother, didn’t bother to photograph my cute antics as a baby. I don’t know why. Though our family albums include photos of all my siblings in their earliest years, I’m not sure I existed before age three.
Perhaps because my family failed to record my earliest years, I photographed myself, long before selfies became popular. The images I took have more meaning for me than those taken by others because they are sensory, emotional and unbidden: happy surprises that flash into my mind when triggered by a current experience. Three of my childhood selfies follow, along with the incident that prompted them.
Several summers ago, overnight, rain fell on Cedar Mountain. The next morning, Joel and I walked the mountain’s rim in the after-glow of dawn. As I hiked through the spicy smell of wet sagebrush, I suddenly saw myself when young. Hair braided and knees scabbed, I stood on the edge of early morning, watching loved ones clothed in red — father, brothers, uncles — move through a rain-soaked field dotted by sagebrush. Our dog moved ahead in an alert, sweeping motion, spearheading their search for pheasant. Soaking up the smell of wet sagebrush on Cedar Mountain allowed me to see again a place where I had lived happily, a dog I cared about, family members I loved, and the child I once was.
In 2010, Joel and I, tired of I-70, rambled across Kansas on a two-lane highway dotted by small, rural towns. Around noon, we approached an interesting town nestled beneath an abundance of trees and decided to stop, take a look around, and find a place to eat. As we explored, I noticed a gray-stone library accessed by a steep flight of cement steps and saw myself as a child, carefully descending the icy steps of a library, a magical building with long shelves of children’s books, hissing radiators, creaking floors, and a kind, white-haired librarian whose ruby ring flashed when she stamped my selections. As I watched myself reach the sidewalk and walk through a day whipped white by frosted wind, my books clutched close like treasure, I felt a kinship with the children who climbed the steep steps of this Kansas library in pursuit of timeless stories.
Shortly after I retired, l was walking around East Elementary on a rain-sogged morning when I saw a young boy kneeling next to a gutter, oblivious to the weather. As I approached, he looked up “Look! Can you believe it? Look at the size of him!” Obeying, I examined a nightcrawler struggling against the rushing water pulling it toward the gurgling drain. We concentrated on the battle, water against worm, without speaking, until the child said, “I think we should rescue him? Should we?”
“Yes, let’s,” I said; and we did so with a twig, which I found and the child manipulated, carefully placing the worm on an adjacent lawn. After we congratulated ourselves on a job well done, we parted. As I walked away, I saw myself when young, kneeling on wet salt grass beside a small pond with a murky smell. My friend, Sheila, knelt beside me, holding a rusty can. I had a tin bucket. We planned to capture as many of the pond’s wriggling pollywogs as we could, carry them home, and put them in an irrigation ditch with lots of fast-flowing water, because we were certain they’d never live long enough to become frogs in such a small, dirty pond.
Three detailed memories: loved ones hunting in Lake Shore’s fields, a library that enriched my childhood, and two young friends planning and executing a doomed rescue. Three memories among many. Mental photographs available when called. I hope you have a store of satisfying selfies as well.