The Woman in the Photograph

April 22, 2020

Here’s a young lady who I once knew who at the time, never thought about getting this far. Never did it stumble across her mind what it would be like in the Fall. What was she thinking? Only about the present time then, I suppose.

I must’ve been about 24 years old. That’s why I say “this is a person I once knew.” When I was that age, I never thought about being 68. My only thought was in the present. Had I had been thinking about coming this far, I certainly would be in a different situation than I am now.

If I could turn the clock back to that time I would. I would hug my babies and kiss them again over and over and over again and I would fall on the floor and play with them. That was once upon a time. I look at those photos and think, “Oh my God, what happened to me?” You change. If you want to live, you’re going to change. You’ll see the changes.

Thank God at 68 I don’t really have existing or underlying condition that many of my friends have. I’m thankful for that. I’m still pretty much mobile and can do the things that I most people take for granted.

You only grow as you get older. What I know now, I didn’t know when I was 24. Living in the moment, day to day. I have more years behind me than I have in front of me. Time is more cherishable than the time then. When you’re young, you take little things, big things for granted. Now the small things are very, very valuable to me. When you grow, when you age, your mind grows. You feelings grow. Everything grows. It gets stronger, more precious. More sacred.

If I could speak to that person, myself at 24, I would tell her, “Have a foresight.” The most valuable thing you can own is a minute, an hour, a year. Don’t just live here in the present. Think about the far. I certainly wasn’t back then. I wasn’t thinking about what it would be like, what I would look like at 68. Or maybe if I took use of more makeup or something to support my skin, this would take effect on what I would look like at 68. But no, at 24, your skin is going to be like that forever. You’re thinking you’re going to be like that forever at 24. You’re not thinking about what you’re going to be like at 68. You’re thinking you’re going to be 24 forever. So I would certainly tell that person to have a foresight. To have a plan so that if you reach that far, you’ll be prepared.

At 24, I was doing a lot of things. The most important thing is taking care of my two sons. My children ate meals at home. We walked to wherever we had to go. The young people today, everybody is driving. We walked.

I was a mother. I was going to school and I was dropping them off at school. I was taking them to daycare and sometimes the daycare would call me: “When are you coming, Ms. Lyons? We’re closing.” I was working. I was going to school. I was busy.

I had some really nice jobs. One of the nicest jobs I had that didn’t pay me well was a horticulturist. When my boys were little I used to go to various companies around the metropolitan area with my watering can and water plants all day and do the landscaping. That was back in the times when you would go to corporate buildings and you’d see real plants. At Christmastime we would decorate the lobbies and the Christmas trees. You don’t see that too much in these buildings anymore. If you see a plant anywhere, it’s usually artificial. I had fun doing that. I pretty much just kept busy. There wasn’t a dull moment.

I got into being a horticulturist because I was raised up around flowers and plants and I always had a passion for it so I took some courses at the botanical garden. I wanted to get my own business and I did. I worked for a lot of corporations, running around and taking care of their plants. I learned how to write proposals and all that and thought, “Hey I could do this for myself,” so I started writing proposals. It was pretty neat but it was overwhelming with people constantly complaining. Then my kids started getting older and needed more of my time.

I remember at the time I wore my hair in dreads. This was a time when that was not acceptable. They thought you were a revolutionary. People who wore their hair in dreads, they were the real dreads. It was hard getting a job. I used to work for chemical bank. I worked in a money transfer department for three years. I always wore my hair natural. I wanted that dready look because I thought it was gorgeous. So I was working at the chemical bank as a temp, so I went in their one day with my hair cakey because I had decided I was going to let my hair dread, and when I came back from lunch, I had a yellow slip on my desk telling me that the assignment was over. Corporate America back in those days weren’t accepting of that look at all, back in the early 80s.

I decided I was going to let my hair grow and it grew beautifully too. Very beautifully. I was admired everywhere I went, people looked. You had to be bold to do something like that. That was how I got into being a horticulturist. That was more acceptable.

I still have flowers at home. I can’t imagine a world without a flower, without a tree, without music.