This picture of me was from my golden birthday when I was five. My family had spent a holiday weekend as we usually did in the summer: fishing in a boat. My dad loved to fish with a passion. He wanted his children to love to fish. I don’t mind fishing, but I would estimate I’ve spent more time fishing in my lifetime than most women spend shopping. On the day of this picture, I was turning five and my brother was about to turn eleven. That fish was the same as me, five pounds, which is a pretty good size for bass. I remember it clearly: I was five, it was the fifth, and it was a five-pound bass. I had caught that fish all by myself on my little bitsy fishing pole with a three-pound test line. It was incredible really that I didn’t lose that fish, but I was patient and very slowly and carefully waited for my big, huge sucker of a fish to wear out. I sat in the boat, and everyone in the family held their breath while they waited for me to reel that fish in. I listened to advice from all around me, but I tried to focus all of my attention on my father and what he was telling me to do. I knew my brothers would try to spoil it for me and that daddy would tell me the right thing to do so I wouldn’t lose my chance.
In a way, this picture captured the dividing line between childhood and growing up. There we were out in the country in front of our rental house with the full complement of bikes in the background and the wellpit in front of the house. We had a lot of fish to skin and clean after a long, long day out on the boat that day. I’m sure I spent the next day sunburned. You’ll notice a lack of teeth for me, which was my state of being for a long, long time. I had an accident not long before this picture where I lost my teeth, so I avoided smiling. But my dad was so proud of me and my big catch. It was impossible not to smile. I was too small to hold the fish for the picture. He was too heavy for me to lift up high enough to hold still to take the picture, so my brother had to help me. This may be the last picture I have in life where he was nice to me. Well, maybe that’s exaggerating, but it is interesting to note that this is a rare picture of the two of us getting along.
It was an innocent time in the early 70s. In many ways, it was the end of innocence. That next fall my dad had the first of many heart attacks, and we didn’t know if he would live or die. He went on for ten years like that, never knowing when he would have another heart attack. But on that one bright, clear happy day with a big fish of my very own, I had a lot to smile about.