An idyllic childhood growing up in the country?

by Alden Cole on December 16, 2014 · 0 comments

1951-6-11MeMyself&IWPOne of my Philadelphia friends made the comment recently that photographs from my childhood portray a seemingly idealized world, which made her wonder if growing up there was as idyllic as it appears to be from the photographs selected. Needless to say, no childhood is free of conflicts, and mine was no exception. Like all children, I had ‘good’ times, and ‘bad’ days, which Santa was supposedly keeping a tally of. The three photographs above were taken in the spring – all stamped with a processing date of June 11, 1951 on the verso, one week before I turned 9 – and bear mute witness to the dichotomy I grew up feeling, despite the seemingly ideal circumstances available to a child growing up in a self-contained family compound in the country surrounded by beautiful nature. The stable but insular family unit formed the ground from which I grew, providing me with a rather biased basis from which to reach out to a larger world. Ultimately this would necessitate developing a larger world view than the one with which I was raised, which has proved to be very interesting, to say the least…

1949AC&BeanBlossomWPThe first snapshot of “Me” above (as well as the one at left) reveals a dog lover who grew up with more dogs than I can remember by name, but a dog lover who has chosen never to own a dog of my own, a decision effected by the fact that I was the one to discover more than one dead pet by the side of the road, a victim of the bad habits: chasing cars and getting too close. Take for example, Bean Blossom the adorable little puppy I’m holding in the first photo, one of the earliest color snapshots taken by my mother. We were frequently photographed, Bean Blossom and I, before his untimely end pursuing the usual fatal attraction – speeding cars. The photograph above is just one of several of us together.

The second photo of the series above I call “Myself”, a harbinger of the future flower child who would choose to make a life in decorating, leaving the quieter existence of country living to experience the more hectic vitality of living in the city – Providence, New York, Portsmouth NH, Philadelphia. What an educational experience that has been, living in such close proximity to so many people, a foretaste of the Brave New World to which our burgeoning world population is gradually acclimating itself.

1948InDragIVWPThe third photo of the series above (as well as the one immediately to the left) portrays “I” the actor (or actress as in these cases) – a pretender that was well ingrained into my consciousness by the time this photo was taken in early spring. Out on the front lawn, yet again, posed in women’s clothes. My mother wanted a daughter as her third child, but instead she got a third son; so she evolved her own self-satisfying fantasy about who I was, pretending I was her daughter. To deal with this overshadowing sense of disappointment that I felt from the beginning, I learned to keep her and the rest of my family entertained, thus off my back, both literally and figuratively. Then there was the appreciation factor; since I’d first stood up in church at age 4 or 5 to sing a solo, at the end of which I received applause for the effort, I had learned the difference between an appreciative audience and an unappreciative one, and how to manipulate an audience one way or the other, sometimes to my chagrin. Like many of my generation, I grew up with parents who were totally fascinated by the emerging wonder of camera ops via the snapshot, recording day-to-day life. I was often subjected to the call “look this way! say cheese!” I learned to smile for the camera whether I felt like smiling or not, just to make it easier. Thinking about it now, I realize that was actually pretty good training for living more dispassionately in our technological culture; realizing that as Shakespeare noted so many years ago, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. Fortunately, through times of joy as well as sadness, I’ve maintained being intrigued by the part I play, even during those times when the script seemingly didn’t make sense, or I was not happy with the writing, or had difficulty in following directions…

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