Tuesday, September 27, 2011

cut off kid on extreme left

I don't have a date for it.  I don't remember it. I don't know who gave me the photograph. Probably T who found it among the last remnants of my dad's stuff. But there it is in black and gray and white. A telling photo circa early 1950s.

The kids look like the seven dwarfs lined up in a line that surely lasted no longer than it took the photographer to snap the picture over and over and over again until they just couldn't stand it any longer.

Starting from the right, there's:

Pretty: The adorable little 7 year old dwarf holding one of the two piggy banks for this obviously staged kid-tzedakah Zionist Kodak moment.  And then there's:

Fatty: No more than 8 years old, but with a well defined double chin and bushy hair not quite tamed by her mother's desperate and likely painful comb. My guess is that her parents are both Holocaust survivors. She's got that overfed precious-child next generation look. And then there's:

Nosy: Looking over her shoulder to the end of the line, at me, it turns out.  I don't remember this at all. Not one face rings a bell. This one's got a superior look on her face, but I could be wrong.  Pretty, Fatty, and Nosy curiously all have the same little ribbon-tie peaking out of the collar on their blouses. Is this called style for little kids in the early '50s? And then there's:

Sharpie: The only dwarf looking straight at the camera, as if to say WTF are we doing here? Of all of these kids, I imagine that she's done by far the best. Become a journalist, maybe. Or more likely a social worker. Which was de rigeur for 1950s Jewish girls who grew up and wanted to work.

Who are these people? Were we a class? Or just Zionist guinea pigs taught that it was our duty to give give give to the Zionist enterprise.

The sign in the back says Keren Ami which means 'The Fund for my Nation' — and a bunch of coins are spread about the table in front, clearly emptied from one of the two piggy banks.  There's a male teacher (or something) standing benevolently in the back with his arms around all the lovely dwarfs, save one.  He has a pencil moustache and looks a lot like Walt Disney, only Jewish.

The next dwarf is a boy dwarf:

Goody-Goody: The tallest of the dwarfs. He stands there looking older, maybe 9 or 10, leaning on the table with his fabricated smile plastered on his face—like he could hold (or maybe has been holding) that pose all afternoon as the photographer tried to capture something print worthy. And next to him, another boy dwarf:

Clueless: Tabula rasa of the lobotomized sort on his round little 6 year old face. This little dwarf has got an actual suit jacket on, and a white shirt with cufflinks.  He's one of the two littlest ones. Him—and the last little dwarf next to him on the left. This photo shoot must have been a dress up affair. Somebody actually cared.  Looks to me like the little dwarfs had been told to look their best. Or rather, their parents had been told.

And that leaves the last little dwarf.

She's the one not encompassed by the arms of the Disney grown-up.

She's apart. Other. Like the others, dressed up for this moment by her mother. Evidence: The done-up knotted scarf around her neck— but not the same kind Pretty, Fatty, and Nosy have on. And instead of light colors, she's been done up in darkness.  And on the way far left is this last little dwarf, and who (in shock) I recognize to be a 6 year old me. But here, we'll call her:

Downer: This little dwarf has eyes of resignation. And there's that wholly recognizable melancholic mouth. Not even trying. Her hands are folded around each other dutifully set—but in her right hand, she clutches a tiny envelope. Her tzedakah offering for the piggy bank, which is for the Keren Ami, which is for the building up of the Zionist entity. And the indoctrination of little Zionist children. And little Downer dwarf has the look of utter despair on her dark little face and her deep little eyes. Unable to attempt pretense—in that sense, just like all the others.

And so there they are in the photo, starring—from right to left—the seven little dwarfs, six of whom are enveloped by the warm embrace of the Disneyesque indoctrinator into the faith:

Pretty, Fatty, Nosy,  Sharpie, Goody-Goody, Clueless, and Downer.

And written in pencil on the back of the photo is:

                                           Cut off kid on extreme left.
And that would be me.

And of them all, I know only what happened to me, know only what I've become. Professional Other. Woman in Black. Professional Mourner in a Kaddish in Two-Part Harmony.  Morose little Downer that I am— The unenveloped kid to be cut off on the extreme left.

And I'm okay with that. It's somehow fitting, somehow just and right.

I don't have a date for it. Don't remember it. But this snapped moment captures us all midstream in the delicate art of becoming.  Or perhaps we always were, and never changed at all.