We had all kinds of different cameras when I was growing up. We had the Polaroid Land Camera and the Kodak Instamatic.
My first camera though was a Brownie.
Gladys was so excited. Her husband, Eb, had obtained a brand new 35 millimeter Pentax camera. She had taken pictures with her faithful old Brownie but wanted to learn to take more artistic pictures. She wanted to be able to focus and bokah and double expose. She squirmed in her seat as they cruised through the countryside. She would shout out “EB! Stop here! Look at that barn!” Eb would continue down the road as if Gladys had not spoke. She would see an interesting looking tree “EB! STOP! I want to take a picture of the tree!” Eb would look at her dubiously and continue in his trek. Gladys was getting antsy and wanted to snap pictures. She wanted to create and craft stories from these wonderful scenes she had witnessed. “Gladys, don’t get your drawers in a wad. That there camera is not a toy. It is a serious piece of equipment and you can’t just be snappin pictures of barns and branches. You got to find a serious subject and then compose your frame. You have to be patient and wait for just the right light” Eb turned on his blinker and exited onto a dirt road.
Gladys’ fingers tingled, her breath came quick as she held tight to the camera case. “Are we stopping here” she asked as they pulled in next to the water. “Are we going to take pictures of water? Can I take the first ones? Where is the film? I want to load the camera.” Eb pried the camera case from Glady’s clinch and got out of the car “come on, I’m gonna show you how this thing works.” Gladys looked at Eb in awe. How did he know so much about picture taking and camera loading? She knew it had something to do with his top secret job he had in the military. He had been in Vietnam and was in something he called re-con. Now Gladys always wondered if that meant he was an ex-convict and the military made him do more bad stuff and that made him a re-con. It would explain all the secrecy behind his job. He seemed to be a good guy now or at least he was most of the time, when he wasn’t yelling at her for burning the cookies or pushing her face in hot spaghetti because she spilled it.
“GIT OVER HERE” Eb yelled as Gladys maneuvered her big pregnant belly from the little car. She waddled over to the dock where Eb stood waiting. “You put the film in here” he said as he fed the black shiny ribbon onto a spool in the back of the camera “then you insert it into this slot.” He continued to instruct but Gladys’ mind was elsewhere. She was taking in the area and composing shots in her mind. “You’re not listening to me. You know what happens when you don’t listen to me. You have accidents” Eb said as he jerked Gladys back to his instructions. “I was just looking around wondering what to take pictures of” she explained feeling a little sick and scared. “Well, you have to learn how to load the camera first. Then you need to understand what a f-stop is and your film speed” once again Eb went on explaining talking a language that might as well have been Swahili. Gladys continued to stare at the camera and nod her head as if she understood.
“Okay, now you stand here and I’ll go over there on the dock and take a picture of you. That way I can make sure it’s loaded right and then you can take a shot or two” and with that Eb strolled out over the ice cold lake the heels of his cowboy boots beating a rhythm. Gladys stood next to the little Oldsmobile and waited. The West Texas wind was blowing out of the north making the November day seem colder than it should have been. Her hand was resting on her belly as she looked out over the glistening water. She saw black and whites of this exact scene framed in black frames with white mats hanging in her living room. She would point to them when asked and say “I took them. I was out at the lake and it was as pretty as a picture, so I took one.” People would oooh and awe and want her to make pictures for them. They would insist that the local gallery give her show. She would be a star.
“HEY! I AM TALKING TO YOU!” Gladys jumped out of her daydream and looked just as Eb stepped toward the end of the pier. Gladys started to yell “EB!” Eb’s face drew in and he yelled “SHUT UP! I didn’t tell you to talk. Just listen to me. I want you to…” It was too late he had taken one too many steps. “you are going to fall off” Gladys whispered as she watched Eb, camera and all sink into the muddy water.
That was the end of Gladys’ one and only photography lesson and the last time Eb and Gladys owned a camera.
You see I didn't let that stop me.