(This was a writing exercise that turned into a bit of introspection.)
I’m looking at an old black and white picture of four kids. I can only identify two of them, well, only one for sure. The oldest blond girl is very plainly my cousin Suzie. She has this look, not quite of disdain, but something similar as she gazes a bit down her nose at the younger girl to her right. I think it’s me, but I’m not sure because I (?) have my head down. Or maybe I’m the younger kid to Suzie’s left.
These kids are all sitting on the ground in the side yard of the house where I grew up. I suppose the girl on the far left of the picture could be our backyard neighbor, Mary, but who is the boy sitting between her and Suzie? His hair looks too light to be her brother, Johnny, though he seems to be about the right age. Surely that’s not cousin Jeffery, is it? It looks too young to be him. Jeffery is closer to Suzie’s age, about three years older than I am, but this boy’s size suggests he’s about my age. If I’m the kid on Suzie’s left.
There are shadows on the ground that hint the unseen trees are leafless but none of the kids wear jackets or sweaters so what time of year is it? A warm day in late spring in Ohio? Not likely. The maples leaf out early. Besides, there are leaves on the small shrubs by the house. Wait a minute. I don’t remember that we ever had shrubbery. Maybe I was too young to remember it or something. What is that growth, then? The picture isn’t clear enough to tell me what they are or if there are fallen leaves on the ground (what are those speckles?) but I don’t think there are, so it must be a spring picture.
I have questions about things besides leaves, too. The boy gazes directly into the camera while the two girls seem to be distracted. Who are these people? And who took the picture? And why?
Suzie is dead now, of cancer a few years ago. If the boy is Johnny, he’s gone, too. I have no way to know what happened to the other girl but it’s possible she’s dead, too. Ditto the picture taker since it’s likely an adult.
That leaves me.
How strange to feel like a sole survivor.