Friday, April 23, 2010

Jo at Fourteen

I have a dearth of old photos right now as all mine are packed ready for our move in three weeks. I hope this one, found tucked inside an old school report, will suffice for today's Sepia Saturday.

This photo is of me in my school uniform in 1971. I was fourteen years old. The first thing that strikes me about this photograph is how much younger and less sophisticated the fourteen year olds of then looked as compared to now. Yet, I don’t recall pigtails and ribbons being unusual amongst the girls of my age at school. Most of us wore white knee socks, and make-up wasn't allowed.

Although I had not yet voiced it, at the time of this picture I was starting to become fully aware and cognizant of the failing dynamics and break-down of my family. I was wary and sad. I think this shows in my eyes. Nine months later my world was to fall apart when my parents divorced and my mother brought her six daughters to live in her native Canada.

I went through a time of what I can only define as grief. It was wrenching, visceral; nothing you could push out with the heel of your hand like an aching muscle. For a long time the stars faded out. The stillness, I remember that. It was clear and fierce and full of such loneliness that the air was thick with it. I day-dreamed of my family being made whole and returning home to England, over and over again. It was a painful, humiliating reflection, the kind I both relished and resented at the same time.

But, life simply keeps on becoming. Both my parents went on to re-marry very happily, and I fell in love with Canada. I have lost my English accent, my hair is white, and I’m certainly fatter, but the girl I was still lives inside me. Looking at this photograph, I am reminded anew that it is good to revisit the hidden, often forgotten parts of ourselves.

(Me, in front of my old school many years later during our holiday in 2004.)


  1. An English Joan Baez!!!!"keep on becoming" is a damn good motto to live by!

  2. That's a great photo to have. Oh yes! (I agree with Tony on the Joan Baez.)
    I went to a private girls' school and had to wear a uniform, but I would have killed for one like yours rather than the royal blue polyester I was stuck with!

  3. What a beauty -- the pale eyes and dark hair are so striking. And the melancholy face -- really, this is a great photo!

  4. A wonderful photo. The girl with the thoughtful eyes.

    My parents divorced when I was 7. For years, I was convinced it had all been my fault. Children carry pretty weighty burdens sometimes, don't they? But they are also largely resilient. And, like you, I have rebuilt good life over the years and feel stronger and happier for it.

  5. What a hard time...especially at that age!

    Love your eyes...

  6. What a great picture! We are the same age, Jo. I remember wearing my hair just like this.

  7. A very good photo--there is a look of sadness & maybe stoicism or something like that. It sounds like a very difficult time--& yes, I'm with Tony & Kat on the "becoming" line, as well as remembering that we still contain our younger selves.

  8. A beautifully written post. Truly. I'm very glad to have made your acquaintance!

  9. I agree with Leah : that is beautifully written. The photo has a Mono Lisa quality about it - one could stare into your eyes and analyse your smile in search of the story behind it.

  10. Tony: I wish I had a voice like Joan Baez', but alas ...

    Poetikat: At the time, I didn't care much for my uniform, but I realise now that it could have been a whole lot worse.

    Vicki: You're too kind, but thank you.

    Martin: You're so right. Children do carry heavy burdens at times, but I've come to believe that some adversity and difficulties growing up can make you a stronger and more compassionate person.

    Betsy: Thank you. The eyes are a family trait. All six girls in my family have the identical big blue eyes.

    Willow: I'm relieved to know that I wasn't the only one wearing pigtails at fourteen! How cool that we're the same age! 1957 was a vintage year.

    John Hayes: Thanks. 'Keep on becoming' is what's its all about, I think.

    Leah: Thank you. I'm glad to have made yours, too!

    Alan: I appreciate your very kind words, as always. Thank you.

  11. Tony is right, that photo of you looks remarkably like Joan Baez.

    I had to keep going back to the photo as I read your narrative and began to see the girl that was you through your eyes.

  12. Nana Jo,

    You were beautiful then and you are beautiful now! Your grandchildren are gorgeous. I wish I could give you the snow white dress for lovely Ariana!

  13. Barry: So many have mentioned Joan Baez that I had to do an image search. I do see some resemblence, even now at 53. We're not related as far as I know.

    Neetzy: Thank you! Your words make me feel beautiful. My Ariana lives and breathes all things princessy and silky and flowy. She would dress up all day, every day, if she could.

  14. What a hauntingly sad and beautiful post. I love the direct eye contact you gave the camera lens. Just lovely.