Faded photographs. I fall down a rabbit hole. On the other side of a mirror’s reflection, I spot a girl I vaguely remember. Now I see her thru a different set of lenses.
Like the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland,” the clock races – this time, backwards. I’m 15, traveling solo for the first time, on a bus from Central New York to visit my grandparents in Pennsylvania.
At a bus depot in Wilkes-Barre, some of the other passengers invite me to have lunch with them. One is an Air Force man, Jim Peterson, who is with his wife. Before we went our separate ways, Airman Peterson told me, “Don’t ever change. Stay just as sweet as you are.”
I want to say, “You talking to me?” My perception of me was the polar opposite. I felt like an awkward, barely noticed teen. His compliment changes how I see myself.
How I envy Molly Ringwald (as Andie Walsh) in the movie, “Pretty in Pink.” She is from “the wrong side of the tracks,” but Andie has a pretty good sense of self. She has a crush on a rich student, Andrew McCarthy (who plays Blane McDonough). Blane breaks the prom date with her because his snobby friend, James Spader (as Steff), put Andie down.
Andie decides to go to her high school prom by herself, but her childhood friend, Duckie (Jon Cryer), is there to escort her. Blane realizes that his friend’s disparaging remarks stem from Andie refusing to go out with Steff. He tells Steff off and confesses his love to Andie.
”You said you couldn’t be with someone who didn’t believe in you. Well, I believed in you. I just didn’t believe in me,” McCarthy/McDonough says.
Why are we so hard on ourselves?
In another photo, my hair is in a slicked-back D.A. – a failed attempt to look hip like Elvis. I have a mental image of the Cheshire Cat chuckling over it. But my Granddad Fiet writes that he is astounded “that a vessel of vinegar” like himself could produce such a looker.
Really, I thought Granddad’s glasses must be Coke-bottle thick or he had a bit of Irish Blarney in him. Were his comments just familial pride? What had I failed to notice?
My lack of confidence went beyond my appearance. A high school English teacher I respected, Robert Gloccum, predicted that I would go far as a writer. Yet, outside of school, I hesitate for years to show anyone what I write. What did he observe that I was too blind to see?
Who sees the best in you? Too many times, we shortchange ourselves. I know I did. When I look thru our dusty photo albums now, I see this distant reminder of who I once was looking back at me. My mysterious smile hints, “If you could just see what lies ahead … “
It is like being in a field of daisies. Nothing set me apart from the other wildflowers.
Then, one day, I feel more like a budding rose coming into my own.
Now that field is wide-open with endless possibilities. Unlike the White Rabbit, you may discover as I did that there’s always time to pursue your dreams.
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Main Photo: “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Manufacturer: Walker Books Ltd., 2001
Photo: Judy – high school yearbook