Friday, April 5, 2013

White and Gold With a Touch of Red

The sisters and sisters-in-law, still decked out in their flowery “Sunday-go-to-meeting” frocks, sat under the shade of the maple trees on this warm summer day. Erna fanned herself with the Sunday bulletin as Esther and Adeline chatted.

Near the corner of the house and within sight of the moms and aunts stood Erna’s boy, Wayne. He was a hand’s length from a hydrangea bush overflowing with greenish-white blooms.

“Whaddya think they’re talkin’ about?”

Wayne’s cousin Brenda nervously plucked at the embroidery on her dress. She peered around the hydrangea at the women. They kept looking over at the two children, smiling and pointing.

“Dunno. I don’t think we’re in trouble. But whatever it is, it’s about us,” she said.

“Yuh think so?”

“Yup. We shoulda bin told to take off our Sunday stuff soon as we got home from church. And nobody did.”

“Maybe they forgot?”

Brenda gave Wayne that “don’t be stupid” look.

Adeline worked fiercely every Saturday night to wrap Brenda’s blond hair in rags so that her golden ringlets bounced continually through Sunday School and church. Today the little girl wore a huge off-white bow in her hair. It matched a puffy-sleeved dress complete with Peter Pan collar, socks, and shoes.

The children wanted desperately to climb a tree, chase the chickens, puddle with the ducks in the creek, but had already been sharply rebuked by mothers and aunts and sternly told not to get dirty.

“Do yuh think we’re goin’ to church again?”

Brenda shook her head, making the ringlets swirl across her face.

“Brenda, don’t mess your hair up. For goodness sake, stay still!”

This rolled across the grass from the lawn chair occupied by Aunt Esther, the family fashion plate.

This time Wayne rolled his eyes. He was as blond as Brenda, and was also dressed in off-white right down to his shoes. Anyone looking at the two children would think that they were twins, not cousins.

The families, separated by five hundred miles, got together once every summer for a family reunion. Today was the day.

The other cousins came roaring around the corner of the house, almost colliding with the two semi-angels in semi-white.

“How come they can do what they want, and we can’t?” complained Brenda.

Wayne just shrugged. He was the quieter of the two. Every inch of Brenda craved for constant motion. This “stay still” was torture for her.

Uncle Harry came around the corner accompanied by a stranger carrying a tripod and a box.

“Wayne. Brenda. Come over here,” called Adeline, indicating the center of the lawn.

The man with the tripod set it up not far from them and then arranged the box on the top.

Brenda leaned over and whispered: “It’s a camera. They’re gonna take a picture.”

“They could’ve done that with my mom’s Brownie,” he observed with some disgust.

Adeline and Esther hurried over to the spot where the children were rooted. Erna stood back, not eager to get in the way of the movers and shakers of this little event. Esther went to work arranging the children.

“Now Brenda. You stand over here. Turn a little this way—no, that’s too much. Fine, that’s better. Put your arms down at your side. Stop fidgeting.”

She snapped out instructions like a drill sergeant as she smoothed Brenda’s skirts and adjusted her bow and sash. Then it was Wayne’s turn.

“Wayne, turn and look at your cousin. There, one leg in front of the other and bend towards her. Not too much now. Fine. Now, both of you lean forward just a bit. Wayne, reach out and touch Brenda’s arm. Don’t move, Wayne. Don’t wiggle, Brenda.”

Having positioned the children, the aunt turned to the photographer and signaled with her hand that everything was ready and he had better be ready too. She stepped out the way.

“Now Wayne, lean over and kiss Brenda on her cheek.”

Kiss her? On the cheek? Yuk! Why would I want to do that?

Kiss me? On the cheek? Yuk! Why would he want to do that?

Wayne knew better than to protest. Carefully, without moving the legs his aunt had positioned so precisely, he puckered his lips and leaned over.

Somewhere between pucker and cheek, the camera flashed and the white and gold moment was forever captured, framed by the luxuriant hydrangeas.

Personally, I think it’s a wonderful picture. Fifty years later, Brenda laughs at the memory. My brother? Well, he’s just as embarrassed today as he was then.


Author's Note: I was very young when this happened so I can't say that my description of the events is even close to true, but the picture is, as they say, "worth a thousand words."

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