PANDORA’S BOX

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Remember the classical Greek myth about Pandora, the little girl who couldn’t contain her curiosity?  She was granted every wish by her loving parents, except her wish to look inside a box in their room they had warned her never to open.  But she just had to know what was in it. So one day when they weren’t home, she peeked in the box.  As soon as she lifted the lid, all the troubles in the world flew out.  And life was never the same again.

I recently came across a small box covered in faded flowered paper that had fallen behind some books in my office bookcase.   It had been my mother’s.  At one time, she used to cover little boxes that came her way with prettily patterned paper, to make them more decorative before she put something in them.

I hadn’t opened this box in ages. Unlike Pandora, I did more or less suspect what was inside.  I thought my mother might have kept in it small photographs I had sent her when we were living on separate coasts, mainly duplicates of photos I already had. But perhaps it held something else.  In any event, from the feel of it, the box was definitely not empty.  I was curious to look inside.

With one exception, it was filled with pictures taken between 1962 and 1965.  (What my mother may have thought of as my glory years.)  That one exception dates from January or February 1932.  I am the toothless little person in the angora hat on the left:

First winter

First Winter, 1932

I don’t know that baby.  And I barely remember the woman — young proud mother — who is holding her. Nothing at all comes back when I look at the picture. So it’s a safe zone.

But the other pictures?  Like Pandora, I should have left them in the box. Or in my memory of when they were taken.  Remembering the past may be pleasurable.  Actually seeing the changes that time has wrought is not.

Here, for instance, I am in 1962, age thirty-one, visiting my parents in southern California.  My father took these two photos.  How young I look to myself now!  How sophisticated I thought I was then —  a divorcee with life experience, in her clinging New York black dress, clean white cotton gloves, and heavily teased and sprayed hair.  (Life experience?  I hadn’t seen nothing yet.)

Summer 1962

Summer 1962

Summer 1962

Summer 1962

Moving on, here I am on the beach at East Hampton the following summer, which was fifty and a half years ago, searching — successfully — for a father for my future children.  My future second husband, who I met there and with whom I was entirely candid about my goals, said that would be okay.  He’d just see me until I found the right man.  So I wouldn’t be lonely while looking.   Oh the games we mortals play!

Summer 1963

East Hampton, Labor Day 1963

Yes, we bronzed ourselves with impunity in those days, oiling and baking in the sun for hours on summer weekends so as to look glamorous in pastel linen at the office during the week!  Nary a thought for future brown spots, melanomas, crinkled skin.  Tomorrow never comes, right?

[Which teaches us that there are occasional exceptions to “Now is now” as a principle to live by.]

There are no photos in the little flowered box after September 1965.  As far as my mother was concerned, my wedding and honeymoon in that month concluded the story.  A happy ending for her miscreant divorced daughter at last.

Here are just a couple of the honeymoon snaps. We do look happy, the new bride and groom on honeymoon in Bermuda:

Bermuda, September 1965

Bermuda, September 1965

Bermuda, September 1965

Bermuda, September 1965

Two years later, my mother began saving photos of my children, not me.  And not in the same box. Since she really did believe getting married ended a woman’s story, it’s just as well she closed her flowered box with Bermuda.

Because after the wedding and the honeymoon preserved by photo inside her box, all the real troubles in my world began.  And life was never the same again.

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10 thoughts on “PANDORA’S BOX

    • Thank you very much for reading, Jeremy. Half a century is a long time ago, and I suppose it must indeed look very different to a young man today. Some things weren’t so different, though. Happy is happy, no matter where or when. I wish you happiness, too. 🙂

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  1. You were so classy and beautiful then, as you are now! As you mentioned in another comment, I can now see (especially by reading your posts) that some things – many things – really are the same, regardless of “era.” We all have dreams, worries, hardships, and of course, good times…

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    • Thank you for the lovely comment, and especially for the “beautiful.” I certainly never thought I was. (All I felt I could aim for was “attractive.”) I am pleasantly surprised at the “classy,” a word also used by Jeremy Stormsky in his comment. I assume you’re both referring to the clothing. Mine was nothing out-of-the-ordinary. Everyone dressed like that outside the house mid-twentieth century. Men wore suits, shirts, ties and leather shoes. Women, including young women, wore stockings, dresses or skirt suits. Most of us wore (too much) makeup. (God forbid anyone should see your “real” face!) Jeans or pants were for “sport.” There was also the “peasant skirt” for one’s off hours. But we won’t go there.

      As for the dreams, worries, hardships — of course they’re the same. The accoutrements change; human beings really don’t. Although I’m surprised no one has yet commented on the size of the cars parked along the 1962 Southern California street. 🙂

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    • I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed, M.T. The cover’s back on Pandora’s box. I decided when I began this blog not to discuss in any specific way any part of my life involving someone who’s still alive and might be embarrassed or otherwise disturbed by anything I said. Embarrassing myself is one thing. Bringing the private lives of other people into this very public and permanent forum is another. I even debated long and hard with myself whether to include the photo of my second husband on his honeymoon. But I name no names, and it’s a nice picture, and if anyone were ever to bring it to his attention, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t mind.

      The next post will be a reblog. Please keep reading anyway. I think it’s going to be well worth your attention. 🙂

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