In the Attics of My Life

All of us have photographs from our past that we probably should have thrown out long ago. You know the ones I’m talking about – where you’re caught unawares with a goofy expression on your face, or on bad hair/skin/clothes days, or simply taken at an an awkward phase of development. You swear that you’ll burn them, that no one will ever be permitted to see them lest they ruin your carefully constructed image – as if we were all movie stars or politicians with something to hide.

And then one day, after your mom cleans out the closets in the old home, a box arrives in the mail with all of those blackmail-ready photos… and they’re so bad that they’re good! I have one of those boxes, and came upon it today while looking for something else. I spent about an hour shuffling through the pictures, cringing, but laughing my head off at the same time. Now, thankfully, I’m at a stage of my life where I feel great about myself, and don’t really care what people think about what I do, or say, or how I look. So I’m ready to share some of those “precious moments” with you.

I started out normal-enough looking, although the photographer was apparently moved to make me look more like a girl by penciling in a little wispy hair (I was bald as a cue ball). And as a bonus, I’m throwing in the folder I found this in – one of my brothers must’ve been fascinated by a certain movie, but hadn’t quite perfected his letter-writing skills.

Moi baby       Moi zorro

I actually could take a decent – dare I say cute – photo, although most of those “good-enough” ones are pasted permanently in my parents’ photo albums, and so didn’t make it into the box that was sent to me. (Don’t you tend to post your kids’ best photos and shoebox the rest?)

fatima      Moi gr2

Get ready now, here come the kind of pictures you’re afraid will end up on the cover of the National Enquirer someday, becoming amusing fare for all your erstwhile admirers waiting in the grocery checkout line.

Here, for your entertainment, my sister Peg and I (I warned her I’d be posting this one), ready for a Willy Park parade in our figure-flattering Girl Scout uniforms, complete with Dad’s-Basement-Barbershop-Special haircuts (surprisingly, without the ever-present mini-bangs – Mom must’ve thought we’d look like hookers or homeless children if our bangs were more than one inch long), buck teeth, sun-in-the-eyes squints, and white gloves.

Moi GS

Pool Pass Rejects: More bad haircuts, pissy mood (and what was I looking at?), mouth closed to hide the Bugs Bunny teeth – probably taken at the 50-cent photo booth at McGuinness’s. Dad would stick in a couple of quarters, then allow each of us one or two photos on the 5-shot strip. Invariably, we’d look totally bewildered and unfocused, since all of us were being pushed in or dragged out of the photo booth at extremely short intervals. At that point in time, I wished for nothing more than an entire strip of photos to myself, to pose and mug for the camera at a comparatively leisurely pace.

Moi poolpass2       Moi poolpass1jpg

School Photos: Yikes! What can I say about these??? Seems like every time school photo day rolled around, I had chapped lips. The ghostly complexion I couldn’t do anything about, since I’m 100% Irish (my Sicilian husband calls me “the white woman”) and those were the days before semi-realistic-looking spray tans.

Hair-do: ugh – throughout my life, my hair has somehow changed its texture and shape – sometimes straight-ish, sometimes frizzy-curly, but usually not any way that happened to be fashionable at the time. Mom even gave me Toni Tonette Home Permanents – my favorite photo from the Toni hairstyle choices was called “The Juliet.” The young model had her hair pulled back in several asymmetrical sections, with tiny bunches of fake flowers tucked insouciantly here and there and she smiled demurely, coyly, from under her eyelashes.


(Yes, I admit that none of this – the style, the pose, none of it – is at all me, in any way, shape, or form, but at the time I was truly shy and studious, and I thought it was the coolest picture of the bunch).

And oh, yeah – I’m fully aware that using the term “hair-do” dates me, but I can’t help it. I try to remember to say hairstyles, but it just slips out (like saying “bathing suit” instead of “swimsuit”) – I guess it has something to do with learning the word in my “formative” years…. Anyway, there was a product that a lot of us used to keep our hair-do’s in place (grammatically incorrect apostrophe!! but otherwise it looks like hair-dohs) – it was called Dippity-Do. Came in red for regular hold and green for super-dippity-duper hold (something like that, anyway – people in commercials were always saying idiotic things with completely straight faces).

toni home permanent     

Of course, Mom’s Toni Home Permanent choice for me was “Cinderella”, a predictable style of the day – and acceptable for Catholic grammar school – which didn’t turn out quite like the photos. (But she sure had better taste than me at the time!)


On picture day, after Mom had carefully arranged my hair just so, Photo Woman would always comb it out (except for the tube-shaped flip, which she should have combed out, and dear God, what is with the bangs in all these?!). This hair-do interference made my mother angry, and as you can see, the results were none too flattering. I don’t know why Mom even bought the photos (in those days you paid after you saw them). Oh my… thank God for a mother’s love.

Moi gr2 color       Moi gr4       Moi gr6

In eighth grade, I was rescued from totally looking like a ghost (not really apparent in this copy!) by the forgiving tone of B&W graduation photography. For once, my hairstyle was slightly fashionable, with the short and jaunty “Twiggy” haircut favored by girls my age in 1969 (yeah girls, go check out your 8th grade photo – if your hair wasn’t long, you most likely had a variation of this cut). However, I was sporting a hot-pink silk moire dress (with leg o’ mutton sleeves) that I made myself, and my great-grandmother’s necklace – except for the hairstyle, I would have fit right in the 1890’s Godey’s Ladies Book (just can’t manage to get the clothes and the hair together!). Luckily, I loved this outfit and wouldn’t have cared if anyone told me I was out of style. (I do believe, though, that I also had on either white fishnet or white lace stockings, minus the white go-go boots that I coveted.)

Moi 8th

OK, so things did get better over time, although not necessarily on a consistent basis. For example, these two photos were taken just a couple of months apart in ‘81 – Glamour-Girl-for-a-Day, and Annie-Get-Your-Chainsaw.

Moi glamour      stihl

I used to think that the Girl Scout photo was the worst one ever taken of me, but I think I’ve got it beat – 1985, some friends and I were at a cabin in Canada in the dead of winter, and because it was so cold, we had wool hats squashed down over our heads most of the time. This pic caught the sock-knitting contingent with some seriously bad hat hair. (And again, the bangs! But this time I got to choose them – finally reached my eyebrows, hooker-style – remember Jane Fonda in Klute?) You can see how thrilled I was at being memorialized in such a flattering way. Just goes to show that even with 20 years to improve between Girl Scout and woodswoman, I can still take some God-awful pictures. But they’re always good for a laugh!

Moi knit


About rangermoi

I'm a former park ranger and teacher, mother of two no-longer-teenage sons, avid cook and reader and the Official Family Memory. I thought I'd better get some of those remembrances down before they all leak out of my senior-moment-affected brain!
Image | This entry was posted in Family, Home, Nostalgia, School and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In the Attics of My Life

  1. Brother Ter says:

    My faves are the two pool pass rejects “Please God, get me out of here” vs “I’ve got a secret I’m bursting to tell . . . but won’t.)

  2. Tara says:

    Wow, you’re braver than me! In one of the last photos you look just like Rory.

    • Brother Ter says:

      I was just gonna say the same. The school photo on the right. Flickr or one of those foto sites has a morphing facility. Put in two pics and you can have one morph into the other. Morph from that one to Rory.

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