Just a short post before I go off to the Writer’s Digest Conference—my first writers’ conference ever. I typed up the following (previously scrawled in the margins of a notebook) to distract myself from major anticipatory jitters. I am amazed that my mother still had this photograph of my 5th birthday party. I’m in the red, white and blue flowered dress (I don’t remember being such a shrimp!) Lynn, the girl mentioned below, is the one handing me a present. You can’t see her feet but I believe she’s got on the coveted pink Mary Janes.
My mother had her purse and some Zabar’s bags draped over one elbow, leaving only one hand free for my friend Lynn and me to share. We were crossing busy 79th Street, heading down Broadway to where she’d parked the car. Between quick-stepping shoppers, Sabrett men pushing carts, and taxicabs swinging around the corner, not holding hands wasn’t an option.
Barely hip-level to passers-by, I remember nevertheless catching the eye of a woman a generation older than my mother. She smiled warmly, first at Lynn and then at my mother. Only I noticed the smile; they took it for granted. And, though I was just five, I guessed what the woman was thinking. She saw their matching, straight brown hair and narrow, angled noses. Lynn, to the eyes of the world, was my mother’s child. I, the brown girl with wild curls (my mother had no idea how to tame them), was just the friend, the outsider. In any case, I got no smile.
I let my gaze drop to the pavement: grey, rubbery, dank and moist. The rain had stopped an hour earlier, but the heaviness remained in the air. The sour smell of a wet, city spring rose to fill my nostrils. The soles of my navy blue Mary Janes made a pleasing slap-slap-slapping sound on the sidewalk, spattering oily drops as I tread. Lynne’s Mary Janes were pink.