Throwback Thursday, Birthday Edition

An old photo and some memories to go with it.

I don’t have many photos of myself, mostly because I don’t see any need to. I know what I look like: I see that face in the mirror every morning. But I do have a few older photos to look back on and this is one of them.

Old Photo
These two photos of me stood on the ledge beside my wasband’s desk in our Arizona home. I took the helicopter frame when I packed, but left the rest.

I vaguely remember the day the larger photo was shot. It was at my car in a parking lot at the beach. It was just after sunset. My future wasband was the photographer.

Nissan Pulsar
Here I am with my old car and my dog Spot in front of the first house I owned with my future wasband. I figure this was shot in 1985.

My car in those days was a 1983 Nissan Pulsar. It was metallic blue and a definite upgrade from the 1970 VW Beetle it replaced. I loved that car until I realized how much it lacked in terms of performance and agility. I replaced it in 1986 with a 1987 Toyota MR-2 that I owned until just a few years ago.

The beach was likely Jones Beach on the west end of Long Island in New York. My future wasband and I met there back on July 10, 1983, an event I documented in a blog post I wrote after my marriage to him fell apart 29 years later. The parking lot was called West End 2.

The photo was shot at sunset. We went to Jones Beach West End 2 occasionally to watch the sun set — that’s how we’d met. Back in those days, I lived in Hempstead on Long Island and he lived in Flushing in Queens. Although I doubt this photo was shot the day we met, it was probably shot sometime that same summer.

I like this photo a lot. It’s quite a nice composition; my wasband could be a good photographer when he tried. This is one of the instances when he managed to nail composition and light; he usually focuses (no pun intended) on subject matter and neglects one or both of the other vital components of fine art photography. (I can’t tell you how tough it was to get him to go on photo outings during golden hour light.) But in this case, he took a great portrait of a much younger version of me.

Younger, yes. I was probably 22 in this photo. My birthday had been just 10 days before we met and this had to be within three months of that. It’s one of my favorite photos of myself.

I’ve been thinking lately about how much I’d like to create a modern version of this photo. My face with the same expression — if I can pull it off after so many years of life experiences that resulted in the cynicism I work hard to overcome nearly daily. The position of my head in the lower corner of the driver’s side window of my current little car, a 2003 Honda S2000. The reflection of the horizon, red from the light of a recently set sun.

Or maybe it would have to be in my truck, since my car doesn’t have a back window for the reflection.

I just need a friend with a good eye and a camera to meet with me and make it happen. Another project for another day.

I don’t actually have this photo in my possession. I found it face down near my wasband’s desk when I returned home from my summer job in September 2012. The locks had been changed on the house I’d shared with him for 15 years, but an $8 lock — yes, I found the receipt dated just the week before on the kitchen table — isn’t going to keep me out of my home. (Neither was his lie-studded attempt to use the court to keep me out. No, I didn’t “abandon” him. I went to my summer job, as I had the previous four summers in a row.)

I found it interesting that he’d kept the photo at all. Or the one of the two of us all dressed up, shot only a few years later at a friend’s wedding, which I mailed to his mother as a birthday gift. I was surprised that the desperate old whore he’d hooked up with, who was obviously calling the shots for his life and divorce battle, hadn’t destroyed them when she was in my home, sizing up my possessions for her own future use. (That didn’t work out the way they intended, either.)

I righted the two photos and snapped the picture you see above. Later, I packed the little helicopter frame — I honestly can’t remember if I took the Papillon picture with it; it’s still packed somewhere. But I know I left the car window portrait behind. I think I was hoping that it would jog his memory of the better days together so long ago, before greed and jealousy and anger and frustration had split us apart. Maybe it would snap him out of his delusional state of mind and make him think twice about what he was throwing away. And how much it was costing him to make an enemy of the only woman who truly cared about him.

Of course, none of that happened. I stayed in the house until May 2013, packing my things while I waited in vain for him to see reason and settle out of court. In the end, it went in front of a judge and he wound up paying me and his lawyers at least four times what he would have if he’d agreed to my generous settlement offer. And he could have kept the house! Stupidity? Greed? Bad advice? I think they were all part of his problem. Amazing how a person can change.

But by then I was started on my new life without him, moving forward for the first time in years without a sad sack old man holding me back. Building the home I wanted — without the endless delays and compromises and excuses I’d been dealing with for years — in a beautiful place among good friends. A place where I could build my business and have an active life with the variety and challenges I thrive on.

When I look back on this picture, I remember the good old days when we were young and idealistic and deeply in love. And then I remind myself that the man who took the photo is long gone — and I’m so much better off without the man he became.

What do you think?