My cousin Laura turns the big Five-Oh this month and as such her sister Margaret put out a request to all friends and family to submit something for a keepsake book she’s putting together for her younger sibling. “Give it your best shot,” Margaret wrote, owing to the fact that I’ve only seen Laura on a total number of occasions in my entire life that I can count on one hand and not use all the fingers.

So I resorted to combing the archives that are the parrot green photo albums my mom organized in the mid-1970s (garish now, parrot green was a huge color back in those bygone days). I hadn’t perused albums in yeeeeeears, but I knew somewhere inside the multiple volumes there had to be a photo of me and Laura from my visit to her family in the early 1970s when I accompanied them in a station wagon with one of those rear-facing seats in the back on a vacation from their home in Chattanooga, Tenn., to Canada and back.

I didn’t get to photos from that experience because I first found an even better photo from the summer of 1965 when I was 13 months old and had been sent to be cared for by Laura and Margaret and my cousin Allan and my Aunt Frieda and Uncle Jack because of financial difficulties my mom was facing as a single parent — difficulties that were tremendously exacerbated because she was almost entirely unassisted by the sadsack pathetic excuse for a human that was the person of the male persuasion whose genetics I may share but into whose gut I would punch or upon whose grave I would spit should I ever be introduced to him living or dead.

Abandonment issues? Ya think?! Let’s move on.

The photo I found was of Laura and me sitting at a table. From the info written to my mom on the back of the snapshot by my aunt I learned my hands are covering my face after having successfully stuffed my mouth with as much of a luscious fresh peach as it could hold. Behind me Laura supports me at the shoulder and the elbow and has a marvelous expression that’s bottled up laughter held back by amazement perhaps at how I can be both so cute and so voracious:

That’s Margaret behind her who’s understandably contemplating how a 1-year-old child could have such an impossibly large head. What can I say, from the get-go I was a big-ass baby.

Anyway, this photo totally captured what I was looking for better than anything from our roadtrip so I scanned it and sent it off to Margaret this week with a note to Laura telling her how much it means to me at such a tumultuous time in my life to have been cared for and supported and loved by her.

Of course with the albums out and accessible I had to flip through to reacquaint myself with images from days gone by and happy was I to find without much searching the image which is one of my favorites from my childhood.

Taken from somewhere in the early 1970s, it’s an accidental double-exposure made by my mom featuring Mickey Mouse-shirt-wearing me and my childhood friend Randy during a visit to the sun-dappled oasis that is the botanical garden at UCLA, a place I first discovered only because any dentistry done on my teeth back then was via the UCLA School of Dentistry nearby:

It’s not a happy picture so much as what I consider a serendipitous one… a rare moment captured that is candid and real and evocative as opposed to most that are posed with fake smiles. Just thought I’d share.