Monday, May 24, 2010

Finding the Little Girl We Lost

From VDB:

Last week, I saw this video of the little girl declaring her love of life, family and herself and felt compelled to blog about it because I think we all come into the world with this same kind of potential for exuberance and positivity but too often, somewhere along the line, it leeches out of us--especially girls. Her enthusiastic display shows none of the inhibition, concern for what others (boys or girls) may think, fear of rejection (from boys or girls) or ridicule (from boys or girls) that eats away at the psyches and souls of girls. Sadly we become so preoccupied with whether or not people like us, whether we are acceptable that we totally forget what WE like—and that we should always begin with our very own selves.

About ten years ago, I came across a batch of childhood photographs of me. There were three pictures in particular that struck me. The little girl captured in each of those fragile, cracked black and white photos was so unrepentantly herself, so sure of her place in the world—albeit that that world was a small patch of sorta-farm in rural North Carolina—that I decided I wanted to keep her around. The photographs are of me at two, three and four years old and I had each tiny picture, restored as best I could, then blown up, matted and framed and hung them on the wall in my bedroom.

The first image, of a resolute, pensive two year old me—or as solemn as a two year old in pj’s standing in waist high grass can be. I’m out behind the North Carolina house where I was born. (The house my grandfather built, the house my father was born in --the house that is pictured on the hardcover version of Far From the Tree.) I use this photo to remind myself that this is as serious as life ever should be…that I can still see over the tall grass and some days I have to look at it more than once.

The second photo is of me at three, by the back door of the same house. I have no idea why I’m so happy—Was it something my mom said? Something my dad did? My grandmother blowing me a kiss? My baby blue (so I hear tell) hair ribbons? I have no clue, but it’s clear I can barely contain my delight in whatever it is. This picture is on my wall so that I remember to always express my joy without reservation and to celebrate whenever possible.

The third picture is of me (yes it’s a white picket fence—talk about cliché) at four years old, outside of my Nana’s house in Buffalo—the city (my mom’s home town) we had moved to by then. The place where the moment we arrived, I demanded my father pull the car over so I could get out and “walk in it” if it was going to be my new home. (For the record, he did let me out so I could plant my feet and order my own steps in my new town.) But I digress—this picture is about me “feeling pretty.” I quite obviously LOVE my dress and doubt that anything could shake my four year old, knock-kneed confidence that I was gorgeous. This photo is to remind me of that feeling on the days that self-doubt creeps up, taps me on the shoulder and whispers in my ear in attempt to undermine my appreciation of myself.

So little Jessica’s video is a 21st century version of these old photos and should be a reminder to all of us never to forget that little girl we were, the one who didn’t know boundaries or limitations. The little girl who dreamed and dared and sang her own song out loud

It’s difficult to photograph a photograph, but here they are


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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 5:57 PM


Blogger ficwriter said...

I have so many girlfriends, myself included, who are culling through old photos and connecting to the little girl that still lives within.

There seems to be some sort of inner revolution among my women friends to remember the child-like wonder and beauty of just being alive and not worrying about what people think. I imagine it's partly an age thing. But whatever it is, it's a lovely place to visit.

Btw, I just want to pick up you as a little girl and carry you around on my hip. You are so precious. But I've always loved your spirit which I've felt through your writing, your tenacity, and your beautiful pictures.

Once again, I love your post and feel privileged to share your journey.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was such a great post and now I feel like crying because I really feel very inspired! I know all about this as I just turned 30 two weeks ago today and though I have a college degree, I want to much more out of life. Though I once possesed this confidence that you speak of in my teens and 20's, I feel it starting to dull as I get older. A girl who was never big on taking no for an answer is now thinking "well if it doesn't happen I will be okay." It really is shameful when I think about it. Nevertheless, I will never give up on my dreams or how grand that my life can be. I too, will continue to hold on to the little girl in me. Thanks for posting this! It could not have come at a better time! I also think that it is great that you guys are a best friend writing team. I read you novel Trying To Sleep In The Bed You Made and it was one of the best books that I have ever read! I have Uptown and Gotta Keep Trying now so I will let you know what I think when I am finished. Well, thanks again for this post and be blessed! :o)

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s. Also, your childhood photos are lovely! I think that the middle and last ones are my faves. remember to hold on to that girl at all times. She will keep you young. The video of the little girl was cute as well! :o)

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember the starched dresses we wore. Our moms worked hard to keep us so beautifully dressed, hair done and shoes always polished. I have similar pictures and I love looking at them as well as looking back at my parents and brothers, etc. Thanks for the memories. Barbara Soloski Albin

11:57 PM  
Blogger DeBerry and Grant said...

Thanks for the comments--so glad the post reminded you not to forget your "little girl".

11:18 AM  

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