My Picture, Four Years Old

 
 
 
I have no memory of posing for the photographer,
but I recognize that face
from the mirror my mother held up to me.
I never thought about being pretty,
but I knew who I was.
My small hands memorized
the suede-like softness of those gloves I'm holding.
The rustling crinoline under my high skirt
made my thighs itch. Coded into that pose
are memories of scratchy washcloths and wet combs,
the fragrance of April Showers bath powder
dusted from a green box sprinkled with buds.
The patent-leather shoes slapped the linoleum
when I ran, and I never minded
taking off those careful, pretty clothes
to be my real self again.
 

Prompt source: For my birthday, my mother surprised me with a small quilt hanging that features the photo this poem describes (see below and my mother's blog post about making the quilt). At 58, I'm surprised how present I feel in that girl in the photo. Physical changes separate us, but at heart and in spirit we're one, and I remember.

My mother remembers the dress in the photo as pale aqua cotton with white flocking. I've always thought of my birthday month in shades of blue, so the color choices for this quilt are startlingly appropriate.

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