And also I look like Bernie Sanders

Even with my super-short, super-straight bangs, I was an adorable child:

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Kindergarten Cute

Whatever body-image issues I’ve developed since then, there’s no question in my mind I was cute then.  When I was a baby, one or two of my uncles (depends on who’s telling the story) said there should be a “Marnie Doll” because I was cuter than a Kewpie Doll.

When I was a baby, my parents and brother and I got one of the two good pictures of the four of us we’ve ever managed to get:

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There’s also a picture of us in the 80s that’s pretty good. But in general, the four of us don’t photograph well together.

Recently, my Great-Uncle Logan passed away, and my cousin Jewell is going through his photo albums to divide up the pictures. She’ll give the originals to my mother, but she scanned this one and sent it to me:

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This is generally how it goes when the four of us have our picture taken. The looking in different directions. The some of us all swanky and others not so much. In this one, the squinting. Still, I’m loving this picture. First, my mother looks remarkably like one of my younger cousins & I always find those resemblance moments compelling.

And also I look like Bernie Sanders. When I posted this on Facebook, a few people tried to tell me I was actually cute, but I said, no, no–I was a cute child, but this is not a cute picture of me.

Thus, my thoughts when I saw it were “I look like Bernie Sanders” and “Mom looks like Jamie” and also “Mom looks so cool!”

When my Mom saw the picture, she was trying to figure out what year it was.

When my brother saw the picture, he agreed that I looked like Bernie Sanders, but pointed out it was before Dad went to Vietnam–he knew because Dad didn’t have much of  a tan.

Dad agreed it was before Vietnam because he came back from that war with a higher rank and medals.

The Bernie Sanders pic made us all remember the following picture, the first one of all of us when Dad came back from Vietnam (Mom’s standing behind Dad–you can see her hair a little–again, challenging to get a good pic of all four of us).

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I don’t know if the four of us were ever happier than we were in that picture. In that moment.

After that, we would have two adolescences and career challenges and the ordinary life stresses of keeping it all together as adults and then weathering deaths in the family and now my father’s memory is so spotty that he’s confabulating–remembering things that didn’t happen. When he saw the Bernie Sanders pic, he talked about remembering seeing it before, but Mom and I are pretty sure we never saw it. That Uncle Logan snapped it, and it went in their photo albums, and we’re just now seeing it.

That’s the thing about confabulation–it’s hard to know if I should play along (at which point I almost feel like I’m gaslighting myself) or challenge Dad (which is troubling, since the confabulated memory seems as real to him as any other). And in this case, does it really matter? Probably not.

But if we skip to the end of the war and focus on the picture of Dad holding Brian and me, Mom right behind, that white car in the drive–we’re on Gran’mommy and Gran’daddy’s back porch, in their old house on the farm (before the new house, before they had to sell the farm).

If we focus on that picture, well, it’s just pure bliss. I’m sure of it.

9 responses to “And also I look like Bernie Sanders

  1. There is clearly a poem in here. The last lines are so lingeringly, achingly loving and sad.

  2. I’m hearing the roots and offshoots of Some Kind of Sign, the work of yours I know best. I applaud the calling of creative non-fiction. I had a brief FB conversation with Tom Montag about it sometime within the last six months.

  3. Priceless!

  4. The way your dad is looking at you in that last photo…what a treasure!

  5. I was not aware that your Dad is a Vietnam Vet! God bless you, Mr. Bullock, for your service. There is no way you could EVER look like Bernie Sanders. In all of your pictures I could tell that it was you. You haven’t changed, only matured and gotten wiser over the years. I could write a PhD dissertation on body image issues, so I can totally relate to you on that count. I was anorexic for three years after my grandmother and aunt loudly announced to all of my friends that at 13 I looked as if I was six months pregnant and they should be ashamed to be seen with or have anything to do with me until I lost a lot of weight. I lived off of as little as possible until I developed an infection at 16 and was placed on antibiotics and started to eat real food again. I have a handful of pictures left from my childhood. I spent every night for a month after my mother died burning old pictures out in my backyard. You are truly blessed to still have your parents with you. Love and treasure every moment you have with them. Sorry about the mini novel!!!

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