Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Unknown Girl

Beside my bed there stands a picture in a distressed white wooden frame. The photo itself is black and white -- a snapshot of three young girls around the age of 10, I'd say, though I certainly wasn't there to document it. It was taken sometime in the early 1940s, from what I've been able to gather, and the three young girls are distant relations of mine.

On the far right is Rachel, standing straight and tall in her wrinkled, ill-fitting striped dress. Her dark hair is bobbed just above her chin, her face is strong and proud. She looks athletic, as if she prides herself on being able to run faster and climb higher than all the boys.

In the middle is Reba Jean. She is a little more petite than the other two, a little more refined. Her light-colored dress fits properly, her white socks neatly folded over above her little white shoes. Her blond curls frame her sweet face, but the slight wrinkle in her forehead and the turn of her lips hints at the dramatic. I can easily picture her lost in a book, or wandering through the wood with daisy chains in her hair, imagining that she is the princess of some unknown realm.

But it is the girl on the left who intrigues me the most. In contrast to the other two, she is wearing pants -- some sort of pale shaded overalls with a white button-down shirt and socks, and what looks to be loafers on her feet. Her wind-tossed hair looks as if it hasn't quite decided whether to be straight or curly. Her eyes dance with laughter and her smile is full of mischief. She is obviously the brains of the operation, and I have no doubt that she was able to talk the other two into performing whatever tricks she could think up on their poor, unsuspecting relatives!

There is something in her that speaks to me. Perhaps it is because when I was her age, I looked a bit like her. Whatever it is, I will probably never find out. I know almost nothing about her, other than that her young life was cut tragically short. Not long after this photo was taken, she and her father died in a house fire in West Virginia.

I don't even know her name.

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