27 06 2005

Earliest Memory
Stubby, little legs made their way down the steep cellar stairs. It was the summer of 1954 and I was a two year old Mighty ‘Mo on a mission. It was necessary for me to hold onto the wood railing with both hands as I squatted deeply and stretched out one leg until my foot reached the step beneath me. Standing with both feet firmly planted on that step, I began the process all over again; stretch, step, feet together, until at last reaching the cool, cement basement floor. The homes in our modest neighborhood of Braintree, Massachusetts did not have air conditioning and often the basement was a refreshing oasis from the summer heat.
It loomed in front of me like a taunting challenge. Daddy had put the padlock on to secure the enticing room from prying little fingers. I knew that I was only allowed to be in that room with him or Mommy. Every time Daddy let me go in there with him, I would stand very still until my eyes acclimated to the dark. I was fascinated by the beautiful things I saw and the odd smells of this peculiar space. The first thing to come into view was the table that Daddy made out of two sawhorses with a board laid across the top. On that makeshift table were some flat, white enamel pans that were filled with chemicals that I was not allowed to touch. This was the source of the strange odor that filled the air. Above the table, hanging from the ceiling was a skinny clothesline with papers clipped onto it by tiny clothespins. Each paper had a picture that Daddy had taken with his camera. He knew how to make the picture come out of the camera and onto a piece of paper by immersing the paper in the enamel pans of chemicals. It was all so magical. I would stay very quiet so as not to disturb him.
Today, he was not going to make pictures. Today, I was not going to wait for him. I wanted to be in that dark room and I was not going to be stopped by the lock on the door. There was a hand saw on top of a tool box in the corner. Thinking that I could do something with that, I picked it up and began to saw the corner of the drywall boards that made the room. Deep in concentration, I was oblivious to the sound of big people feet coming down the stairs. My tummy rumbled with the sound of Daddy’s voice nearly shouting. “WHAT!”
That was all I heard when I immediately threw the saw down, spun around quickly and scrambled up the cellar stairs on my hands and knees. I was safe in Mommy’s lap by the time he had evaluated the destruction and made it to the top of the stairs. I was, however, rattled enough that I never again attempted to force my way into that wonderland of a room, but I was always eager to help my Daddy develop his beautiful pictures whenever he opened the dark room.
Fifty years later, I realize the rich inheritance passed onto me through my Daddy’s gene pool. I am not a photographer but a hairstylist. My picture frame is the mirror in front of my hydraulic chair. My pretty picture is formed with my own hands. It still thrills me to have the ability to change the color of someone’s hair and to change the contour of a face with make up. With scissors and a curling iron I can bring a character’s look to an actor and even place them in a certain period of time. I am still fascinated by the beautiful transformation of time when the hair, make up and costume all come together. No more padlocks on the door to keep me out. I don’t have to wait anymore because I am living the dream.