That crumbling photo album I pulled from the attic was actually my Mom's high school scrapbook. The book itself was unsalvageable, but we were able to pull all of the photos free. the photos were mostly pictures of Mom, Dad, Uncle Russel and their cousin Helen. It showed them goofing around the giant monuments of the Civil War cemetery in Vicksburg. All the boys were wearing those white t-shirts with jeans, so James Dean cool. The girls wearing their pleated skirts and flats. Mom said they would all load up in a car and drive off to all kinds of places and spend the day. These pictures where the proof of those carefree days.
I snagged that picture of my mom and tucked it into the few bits of odds and ends I took home with me. It has become my favorite picture of Mom. I look at it and almost don't even recognize her, though I've seen pictures of her during this time period before. For some reason, the woman in this particular photo is foreign to me. She's wearing a smile I've never seen. She's flirty and has a sense of humor. It is a picture taken before marriage, Michigan, kids and loss. It is a picture that was taken before all of life's disappointments and bitterness has had a chance to settle on her.
I look at this picture and I think "Mom was happy" and I wonder when exactly did it all change because I don't really remember a time she was just happy, unconditionally happy. There has always been a "but" or "except for" tagged to the end of joyful moments. Looking at this picture makes me wonder, even want to believe that wasn't always the case. And I want to know that girl. I want to believe she still exists. She doesn't tell many stories about the good times. This picture is a relief to me. It proves that there were good times. I love that there was a time when she could smile with ease and be flirty and funny.