Luke normally sends me a link to his blog whenever he's added a new post, and upon seeing the title for this entry, my first thought was that he stole my idea to shamelessly display our family photographs online. But he didn't, so then I felt dumb, and also remembered that I didn't invent posting photographs on the Internet.
Anyway, without further adieu, I bring you Frema: The Early Years.
I was born on January 9, 1980. My mother was barely nineteen when she gave birth to me. At that age I was chasing shots of ten-dollar vodka with Hershey's syrup and being seduced with adult films like Hindfeld by small-town boys eager to show me their glow-in-the-dark pictures. What do you mean, there's no glow-in-the-dark picture? If there's no observing of the glow-in-the-dark picture, what on Earth do you want us to do?
This is my first school picture, which puts me in kindergarten, possibly the only grade where children can pull off wearing cherries on their dress collar without bearing some sort of "dork" label. On my first day, my mother said I was inconsolable because we showed up for the morning session and my group was slated for the afternoon.
Notice how sleek and straight and shiny my hair is here? How the light hits the brown and gives it the illusion of exotic jet-blackness? Soak it up, my pretties. Soak it up.
The first thing you'll notice is the hair, because most of it's gone. This is partly due to lice and partly due to my scissor-happy grandma. The elementary school I attended had a terrible lice problem; at one point, my parents were receiving notices from administration every other day about how "a recent case" had been reported and what lice was and how to look for it and what to do when you found it. In the beginning, my mother was very diligent and spent hours checking every strand on our heads for signs of them before subjecting us and the house to a thorough purification with products like this and scalding hot water. However, it didn't take long before the mere sight of a typed letter was enough to send her stuffing our Wuzzles into garbage bags (where the bugs would die a slow and painful death via suffocation) and lathering our scalps with twelve-dollar shampoo that BURNED. My hair was the worst because my shade of brown was almost identical to the color of their shells, and it was very thick, so thick it took an entire bottle to de-lice me. My mom finally decided enough was enough and sent me to my dad's mother for a hair cut. Cut it she did. And I wept.
(You know, the only book I remember even mentioning lice was Starring Sally J. Freeman as Herself. Judy Blume deserves mad props, because if anybody in my class or Samantha's class had it, they never let on, and we were so embarassed, but someone had to have it or else why'd we keep getting those damn letters? It's not too late, people. Break the silence!)
The second thing long-time readers might notice is the necklace, because I hate necklaces so much I can barely tolerate seeing them on other people, let alone myself, but my mother thought my outfit needed "a little bit of color." We fought for fifteen minutes, and she won, and I wept yet again. The humanity! The pained smile! Just further proof of my defeat.
The day before Easter, 1989, coloring eggs and decorating my cousin Kenny's forehead with awesome star stickers. The Necklace Torture had escalated to unthinkable heights, as I was forced to wear a gold cross my great-grandmother had chosen especially for me in honor of my First Communion. The woman was seventy-five and only knew about twenty words of English, so she couldn't be expected to remember that the very thought of precious metal sent shivers of horror down my spine. However, Parental Management decided my wearing it was the polite thing to do, so I wore the necklace.
I hated wearing that necklace. The chain always tangled in the shower and pulled out chunks of the little hair I had left when I slept. There were no tears when the clasp broke three months later.
I think this picture was taken on the day my parents closed on the purchase of this apartment building; we lived on the second floor and my mom's mom and my auntie Donna took the first. Now, though, my gram has since passed away and my auntie Donna started her own family so now the remaining members have found ways to monopolize the entire space. There are pool rooms and ping-pong table rooms and personal offices and separate bedrooms for each kid. MTV should feature it on an episode of Cribs.
My dad's the one with baby Geo. My mom's lovin' her Reebok high-tops, I'm sporting Simpleton glasses and a questionable hot pink/beige color scheme, and Samantha's rocking the casbah in her neon green shorts and purple headbead. All while Ryan tackles daring experiments in skirt length and Auntie Donna guards my pre-pubescent, negative size-A breasts from the exploitive nature of the camera. All of us trendsetters WAY before our time.
Same day. I'm only including this so you can fully appreciate the Simpletonness of my spectacles. Vision problems didn't show up until third grade, so this was my first pair of glasses. My dad thought I was mature enough to pick my own frames. And really, after seeing the results, don't you agree?
It gets worse:
For some reason my eleven-year-old mind must have equated frame size with frame coolness; there's no other explanation as to why I would intentionally seek out lenses that swallowed both my cheekbones. My mother held back the urge to ask "WTF?" when she saw my latest fashion accessory but did request that I remove them for Picture Day. Whoops. Not helping matters is the red bow clip that seems to be hanging on only by grace of the Lord Himself.
This black-and-white dress (complete with trendy plastic belt!) is the same one I wore to my auntie Diane's wedding earlier that September, on a day that started out with me deciding there was no harm in yanking off the lid of a can of Purina when the can opener failed to make a clean cut. Turns out there was harm. And lots of blood. A five-hour trip to the emergency room and stitches for my left index finger and thumb. And yet I still made it to the wedding, because the last reception I went to had these really cool drinks called Kiddie Cocktails, and no way was I missing my chance to have some more of that, because even though it tasted just like 7 Up it came with a decorative cherry and little red mixing straw, and holy crap did I feel Adult ordering my drink from the bar like everyone else.
No Early Years photo essay would be complete without at least one picture of Donna Lyn, the youngest of us five, born to my mother at the age of thirty-two. This was about a week after her first and last C-section, and she let me skip school on the account of officially Becoming a Woman that very morning, and the cramps, woman, my God, the CRAMPS! Actually, it was less about the cramping and more about the attention I wanted to shower on my latest sister, and my mom didn't mind the extra help because in her midst was a brand-spankin' newborn and a four-year-old boy waiting patiently for his invitation to join the world's Most Fearsome Fighting Team. It's likely that the root of my Baby Fever is traceable to this very moment. See how natural Donna looks in my arms? Why I didn't become a teenage mother I'll never know.
I'm only one year older than I was in the last picture, but already my hair has taken a turn for the worse: thick, frizzy bangs and a layer that crowned around the top of my earlobes, a layer I thought I could cleverly disguise by pushing it back with a headband. But I also thought pink glasses were cool, so is anyone surprised my middle-school nickname was Shredder?
I didn't think so.