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excerpt from "Class Photo":

A third grade class photo labeled Spring 1954 shows thirty-four smiley-faced innocents dutifully posed in four straight rows against the beige exterior wall of our country elementary school. No one is cool. The concept has not yet been invented for this age group. The girls' dresses are shirt waisted cotton solids and plaids with cardigan sweaters buttoned at the top. The boys wear long-sleeved flannel shirts with an occasional cub scout logo on a t-shirt. Many wear the same few outfits every single week. Just one child in the photo is wearing glasses. Our look is homey, not worldly. A single girl juts a shoulder slightly forward suggesting that she may know a little too much for her years. The photo doesn't reveal pain or anguish or isolation. We all look cut from the same cloth. And the family secrets that held many of us in solitary misery will not be divulged for years to come...

By fifth grade there are some hints of coolness: sleek pony tails and long feminine curls, three or four crew cuts, fewer flannel shirts and more pullover sweaters. The shirt-waisted dresses have all but given way to courduroy jumpers and velveteen skirts. Strapped flats have made their debut, soon to become a fashion staple of my entire latency through teen years. Three kids are now posing pseudo-glamor style. My hair is still Prince Valiant, though I have left the ribbon behind. My cheeks are way too chubby and there is a permanent scratch in the photo where once was my mouth. It is beginning to look more obvious who is pretty and who is not, or more accurately, who feels pretty and who does not...

Oh the tales they could tell... Two of the boys, unbeknowst to all of us, would soon be breaking into the local businesses. One girl, a close friend, had epileptic seizures—so frightening to us that we shunned her, and her family abruptly moved away to who knows where. Several of the prettiest girls would soon be involved in unhealthy relationships and drugs. The only Asian-American in my entire class shared the agony of the unspoken racial barrier and of her parents' internment camp legacy with me almost forty years after these smiles were recorded. The boy with the widest grin in every class photo carried such immense secret pain that several years after high school he murdered his mother and brother. And of course these are only a few of their stories...

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