From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Indelible Image

Frozen in time


I remember a slim young woman at a subway (U-bahn) station in Berlin, Germany. She was one of several dozen strangers who were standing along the tracks, waiting for the train. When it rolled into the station, she ran lightly through the doors of one of the cars. How fresh and free she looked.

Little Keely was clutching one of my hands, and I had a folded umbrella stroller in my other hand. Baby Isaac was in a carrier on my chest, and my bag of necessaries was over my shoulder. Laden as I was, I admired the nimble, easy way the young woman moved and the swirl of her skirt as she turned. "I used to be like that," I thought. "I'll be like that again," (I was indulging in a moment of fantasy.)

By now, the girl in my mind is about the age I was when I saw her. I'm sure time has changed her, but in my mind's eye, she's still young, slender, and very quick and graceful. I've thought of her many times.

5 comments:

Michael Leddy said...

Do you remember in Citizen Kane Mr. Bernstein's account of the girl wearing the white dress on the ferry? That's what you just reminded me of. Beautiful post!

Genevieve said...

Thank you, Michael. Truthfully, my full-time-mom years, including the three years in Berlin, were wonderfully free. I had time -- what a liberation that is!

Little Keely and Isaac, my constant companions, were good sight-seers and day-trippers, to the utmost of their abilities. Dennis worked mostly afternoons, so that was a good time for excursions, whether it was a walk to the playground or something more adventurous.

As a DOD civilian in the occupied city, I could show my ID and ride on every train and bus in West Berlin. Keely remembers the U-bahn quite well, especially the Zoo Station, where you see animals painted on the subway walls as the train comes to a stop. (The paintings are a superb "set induction" -- 1970s educational psychology term --for the wonders of the zoo.)

I think we were coming home from the zoo when I saw the girl I wrote about.

Michael Leddy said...

We sometimes describe our sense of time when our kids were younger as "Kid Time" (on the model of, say, Central Standard Time) -- excursions, naps, being off clock-time in some way, even while taking constant care of someone.

ptg said...

An elegant and compelling capture of an instant, Genevieve. In a way also disturbing, like Proust.

Michael, your comment set me reeling. These deeply imprinted mnemonic instants must be very important. Or else we are very strange creatures. Or both.

Collagemama said...

What fun remembering the heavy yet easy excursions with my sons. Not Berlin. Mostly Omaha.

Like a logistics specialist, I was packed and ready for every situation that might arise. Funny that my memories of those outings feel lighter than air.

Thanks for the recall reminder!

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IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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