I began my self-portrait assignment yesterday with this picture of my brother Johnny and me looking out a window at our childhood home in Richmond, Vt. I chose this photo because it says a lot about us even though you can't see our faces. In those early years, before we moved to Bethel there were just the two of us. My other two brothers would not be born for years. We didn't have too many other friends as little kids and spent most of our time making up games together. We placed a blanket in our narrow hall, piled our stuffed animals on it and pretended we were on a raft floating down stream. We stared out at the blinking red airport tower at Christmas and thought it was Rudolph, on his way to deliver presents. We listened to the hum of a humidifier and spooked ourselves believing it was talking to us.
I remember being jealous when my little brother was born, but I had forgotten how much we did together as children and how much we were each other's world. When we grew older, in our college years, we were each other's best friends. I forgot that stretched back to these early years.
It's not surprising that I am looking out the window in this picture. The thing I remember most about my childhood in Richmond is the landscape. I was always looking out into the distance, roaming the landscape. We shared two acres of land with my maternal grandparents and I had a hoppity horse, a big rubber blue ball with a horses head, that I would bounce along the perimeter of the two full acres. I sat on my swing, pumping my legs to go higher and higher and staring out at the mountains and farm land in the distance. Our neighbor was a farmer and his field would smell of fresh manure. "Be careful of the cow plops," we would warn.
In recreating this scene today, I left out my brother. Logistically, it would have been hard to find the time to include him, but also he is not in my everyday world the way he was as a child. Like all three of my siblings, he does not live far away and I see him often, but we no longer share that daily bond. Today, it is mostly me. And, the pugs, but I chose not to include them in this photo. That will come later. I chose this hall window because it is one of the few in the house uncluttered by furniture. I chose a dress that I think complemented the retro feel of my childhood photo. This picture is less contemplative than the childhood shot. Maybe it's because I spend less time staring out at the world than I did as a child and more time in it. I liked the idea of throwing the curtains open and greeting the world with a smile.
I like how in the childhood shot you see my reflection, it's as if I'm looking out on the world and seeing who I may be. In the adult shot, you see the outside world. I'm no longer spending as much time pondering who I will be, I am being her.