What Would You Say?

I have many pictures of family and friends on the wall inside my front door. I get obsessed with the arrangement. I’m constantly adding the most current or most flattering picture of the people I like to think about. But there is one picture that doesn’t change.

It’s a picture of a girl. Her long hair is fine and straggly. She’s wearing cut off shorts and a t-shirt. She’s reclining in a bean bag chair on the lawn with her legs spread apart in a decidedly unladylike pose. There’s a litter of four week old puppies sleeping on the ground between her ankles. She’s smiling as she holds one puppy up to the camera. She’s the picture of contentment. She’s completely indifferent to fashion or beauty. She’s happy, and secure, and unencumbered. She’s a treasure. She’s a souvenir.

She’s me on my tenth birthday.

She’s the me who used to make sentences with her alphabet cereal. The one who always shared her Hershey bar with the big Labrador from down the street. The one who could down a bottle of Orange Crush without taking a breath. The one who thought that lying in bed listening to a summer thunderstorm was as exhilarating as a roller coaster. She’s the little girl who finally got brave enough to tear the tag off her pillow, who always had a book nearby, who brought salamanders home in her pocket, who raced motorcycles on the weekends, and who cried every time she read Bambi. The one who insisted that she’d attend Harvard, and who knew she could throw a ball further than the boys, and who was careful not to step on ant hills. She’s the daredevil, the giggler, the shy one, the brat. She used to be me.

I keep that picture because it’s a reminder of my beginnings. In that little girl’s eyes are the dreams that propelled me, the ideals that guided me, and the foundation that grounded me. She stays up on the wall because she’s my soul. She stays up on the wall because I’m afraid of losing sight of her. That little girl stays up on my wall because I can’t see her in the mirror – not even if I squint. She’s my hero. I think the world of that girl. Sometimes I wonder what she’d think of me.

If I were to take that ten year old out to lunch, what would she say?

She’d be happy that I am independent and able to fend for myself but she’d be disappointed that I’m not able to beat the boys at all of their games. She’d be glad that I pet every dog that I see. She’d wonder why I don’t sleep outside or walk in the woods for hours and hours. She’d be surprised that I haven’t memorized all of the constellations. She’d be pleased that I am a vegetarian. She’d be amused by the number of dresses in my closet and by the one pair of heels next to my cowboy boots. She’d be amazed that there are no college diplomas hanging next to the mementos of my adventures – but she’d be impressed by the adventures.

She’d offer me one of her stuffed animals because she’d think I don’t have enough. She’d encourage me to get up earlier and stay up later. She’d invite me to climb trees, and watch sunsets and build snowmen. She’d expect me to laugh more, and tell me stories or tickle me until I did. She’d like my big, high bed and my classical CD’s. She’d tell me that she wants to hike the Appalachian Trail and join the Peace Corps and run a marathon. She’d be envious that I went for a walk with a guide dog, lived in New York City, looked into the Grand Canyon, performed CPR on puppies, made friends with people from Europe, and actually saw Madame Butterfly. She’d laugh at my car and tell me to get a Jeep or a motorcycle.

We’d talk about what a great movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is and about how Tolkien’s trilogy is the best reading ever. She’d be concerned that I don’t spend enough time with my dogs but thrilled that I remember Hamlet’s soliloquy, and Frodo’s quest, and Snoopy’s favorite foods, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s mission, and all the American Kennel Club breeds, and Hawkeye, and how to bake chocolate chip cookies, and how to make moccasins. She’d be glad that I’m friends with my mom.

She’d be surprised that I am not a doctor or a teacher but impressed that I do something that girls don’t normally do. She’d think I’m stupid for forgetting that there’s always a new experience only a minute away. She’d wish that I remembered how to say “no” when I really don’t want to play. She’d worry that I waste too much time doing household chores. She wouldn’t understand why I think about work so much. She’d tell me to concentrate on moments instead of days. She’d wonder why I don’t spend time doing nothing. She’d ask why I don’t read more. She’d think that I act old. She’d ask if I’m happy.

And what would I say?

What would you say?

Jill Wragg is a retired police officer in Massachusetts.
She can be reached at JKWragg@yahoo.com



Barb M said...

I'd say that from hwat little I know about you, you've accomplished a hell of a lot. I think that little girl would be really proud of you for all that you've done, and I think you two would be good friends.

jennifer said...

Oh, I remember that little girl! And, contrary to your inability to see her in the mirror.. I can still see her perfectly in your countenance! I love you..