Hilda was shivering. Cousin Tom insisted on taking her picture.
She protested, mildly. “You can’t take my picture – it can’t even be given away.” She added in an old tale she’d read in one of the many folktale books she’d found to while away the time in these cold winter months. “Some cultures say that taking pictures takes the soul, others say that it is making a graven image.” When pressed, she couldn’t remember what culture said it, or if there were more than one.
Tom was having none of it. “The sooner you let me take this picture, the sooner you can be inside,” he retorted. That was enough for Hilda. 10 feet away, stock still, she stood. The moment she heard the metallic click of the shutter release she was free. She trudged back inside, her duty done.
He said he was going to take a picture of all his relatives, save them up in an album. Labels too, with history, birthdate, the lot. Maybe even accomplishments. She thought he should know she’d won first prize in typing at the local career college.
Typing wasn’t her thing. It was her parent’s idea. She’d always wanted to be a cellist for some big symphony in some city – anywhere away from here. The sound shook her bones with its warmth, all golden-honey smooth. Her parents thought this was poppycock, wasteful, a dreamer’s fantasy, and told her often, even if she hadn’t brought the subject up. She was going to be a secretary and that was that. They paid good money for those typing classes and weren’t going to have her waste it with some fool idea of playing an instrument they’d never even seen in real life.
They decided they had to do something to prepare for her future. That was the reason for the classes. They had no ambitions she’d ever get married, so she’d have to support herself.
They would never say she was ugly, at least not out loud. Homely. Plain. “She has a great personality,” they’d chirp to new acquaintances, in the off chance they might have a son in a similar predicament. Even if a date did come of it, there never was a second one. The boys all said “You think too much,” and that was that. The guy didn’t want her, and she didn’t want him. “Like thinking too much is a bad thing,” she’d say. She wasn’t one to dumb herself down to their level. They’d either have to rise to hers or she do without a man in her life.
That suited her just fine.
Meanwhile, she was cold, and her party shoes were ruined from that snow.
(Photo purchased October 2015, from the three-story antique mall on West King Street in Boone, NC. It was in the “adopt a relative” box and cost $0.50)