Monthly Archives: September 2013

NICKNAMES, SILLY LABELS and other Conventions

What my photo album revealed….

JoAnn and I cropped 2

 I opened my photo album and my younger sister, Jo-Ann, appears. July 1949, she isn’t yet six months-old.  I am no more than a year-and-a-half.  She has hair.  I don’t.  Well, mine is very light and it appears as if I have very little.  This image doesn’t make me shrink with disgust.  I know that I am en route to a discovery.

The next picture of me was taken sometime later.  I am big enough to sit on a backless stool.  I have no more hair than I had in the first picture.  Today, this one doesn’t make me pout like I did for the photo.  Instead it makes me smile.  It reminds me of why Dad nicknamed me Butch.  Butch is such a silly nickname for a girl.  But yes, he was right.  When I was small I didn’t have much hair.  Dad never used that moniker maliciously.  He never called me that in front of my friends.  It was instead a special endearment that seldom went beyond the family.  I wish he were here today to call me Butch just once more. September 3rd would have been his 99th birthday.

As I continue through the album, I come across numerous pictures of Jo-Ann and I dressed alike.  Unfortunately the quality of the photos is so poor that I cannot scan most of them in and share.  And alas, I do not have the technical ability to scan them and improve them.

 My favorite is of the two of us standing in the yard.  It reveals so much about our childhood.   It was probably a Sunday morning.  We both have our short blond hair curled in soft curls, parted on the left and combed to the right.  Hair barrettes hold our hair out of our faces.  That in itself is a reminder.  Bangs were not permitted in our household.  Never! They reminded Dad of a really mean little girl from his school days.

We both wore white ankle socks.  I know there was probably a stitch of blue embroidery thread in each of Jo-Ann’s and a stitch of red in each of mine.  Each Monday the laundry was done and sorted.  All of our clothing was labeled.  I am not sure why it was so important that we each had our own clothes and never wore the others.  As we grew, items were always passed down from one of us to the next.  And when we were quite small we were always dressed alike. However  I am grateful that we each had our own things.  I know a lot of kids didn’t.

Our brown sandals reminded me of another part of the family tradition.  Brown, not white.  Brown could be polished and didn’t get scuffed up as easily as white..  Oh how I wanted Saddle Oxford’s for school when I got older.  But my folks often bought Jo-Ann and me shoes from the boy’s department; because that was the only way they could get brown or black shoes for us.

In the snapshot we are both wearing checked cotton dresses, with puffed sleeves, and ruffled skirts.  Jo-Ann’s looks neat and tidy.  Mine looks wrinkled.  (Hmm, I wonder if there was more to that nickname than just my lack of hair.)  I am not even half-of-a-head-taller than she is.  I can tell which one is me because my shoulder is higher than hers…and my skirt is shorter.  Her skirt almost reaches her knees.  I must have been in a growing phase.  My skirt hem and knees had separated company.  That was another family must…Skirts are to be worn halfway across the knees.  Can you imagine how much stress that caused when I was in my teens in the 1960’s and the mini-skirt was popular?

We both have little purses with long straps that reach across our bodies from one shoulder to the other side.  That is how I know it was Sunday.  There was, no doubt, a handkerchief with a few pennies for the collection plate, tied in the corner and stored within those bags.  We are both looking at the camera and smiling.  And best of all, we are holding hands.  Today we live in different states.  I wish she was close enough that I could reach out and hold her hand today.

Now let’s recap this photo.  We had the same hairdo; the same socks and shoes; the same dresses; matching purses; and we are just about the same size.  I guess I don’t have to wonder why people thought we were twins.

Jo-Ann was nicknamed Jeep.  One of the most popular stories was that she was standing up in the back  of the car on one of our outings.  A Jeep vehicle had cut Dad off, or some such thing and he said, “Get out of the way Jeep.”  At this point Jo-Ann ducked, she thought he was talking to her.  From that day on the family says she was called Jeep.  But as I look through the album I wonder if there might be an additional reason.

In the album I find several pictures of Jo-Ann and me dressed alike.  The big difference is that in one I am admiring how cool I look; and she has a wad of her skirt twisted up in her fist, and she is crying.  In the next, she has her hands bawled up into little fists, and yes, she is crying.  I am just standing there looking at the ground.  And on and on they go.  She always looks ready to be on the go and not happy to have to stand still.  She wasn’t a sit and do nothing child, unless she was ready to fall asleep.  And now I wonder if that is why Dad affectionately called her Jeep.  She was like a Jeep–always ready to go.

As I continue I discover a photo taken in 1955.  This is a picture of me with both of my sisters.  We are dressed in matching blue dotted nylon skirts.  Other than the 1955  photo matching outfits seldom show up in the photo album after we started school.  The pictures that appear are instead pictures of us under the Christmas tree with three identical dolls; or on Easter Sunday with different dresses, but wearing identical hats, bags and sandals.

It is amazing that we grew up to be such different personalities.  We are compatible, but different.  Just the way it is supposed to be.

 

This was written for Three Word Wednesday.  The words:  disgust; pout; wad.

Also written for my monthly memoir group.  Topic:  Something from your childhood.

 

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