The Faded Khaki Photograph

[Note: Original photo, circa. 1943, lost; only this memoir remains.]

           In this picture, you are far younger than I am now.  You wear dress khaki’s; handsome in your uniform, you stand under the blossoms of a tree.  The branch brushes your forehead  and you look carefree, I suppose, like any other soldier on leave.  The photo is old and a dry sepia tone, but I know the blossoms on the tree are pure white, as white as your smile. 

            When I look at these white blossoms, I smell your shaving lotion–Old Spice, I think.  I have Christmas Card you sent to me from France.  The postmark is 1942–so many years ago.   I wish I’d known you then; we could have been young together.  I don’t feel that you are my father.  All you are to me is a young man, handsome and a little wicked looking.  From what I’ve heard you were pretty wicked too; maybe it’s the thin line of moustache–a Clark Gable moustache.  Mother would never admit it when Gram was around, but she loved you in spite of your ways.  I’m not anything like Mother; would you love me if you were here? 

               Mother always said I looked like you.  Grandmother would say, “she’d better not act like him.”  But I always knew you’d approve of me.  You’d laugh at my childhood jokes and be proud of me when I played the piano.  Mother told me how you played the base fiddle in a band when you were 16.  All the girls had crushes on you, but you had eyes only for her.  She kept the paper gardenia you gave her one night before a school dance.  It glowed green in the dark–you told her she would think of you all night long.  Sometimes when I was a girl, I’d sit on the floor in the dark closet, her long skirts around my shoulders, and the glowing flower would bring you across time.  It may sound a little silly now, but I wish I still had that flower.

            I used to stop in the tavern and talk to your old friends.  At first, they were polite and told me you were a good carpenter, a good friend.  Then as time went by and I grew up, the real stories came out.  What a life you had before the War.  My favorite–when you and Dell Fink hauled School Superintendent Yahr’s Model T Ford up to the top of the school roof.  Mother said Professor Yahr called an assembly of the whole school, but nobody told.  That school is gone now too.  It was still there when I was young–I went there for my grade school years and then to the new high school.  There’s a technical school on that spot now–the gray stone school building with the memory of that car is gone.  But so are, I suppose, most of those people who would remember it.

            And here I am, grown and gray haired.  Why is it all I have of you is one card and a picture of a faded khaki solider smiling under a tree of blossoms?

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Published in: on January 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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