“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night
and stealing Oreo cookies.”
— Diane Arbus
Mary is a quiet woman. The first time I met her, I knew I wanted to be friends, but she barely made eye contact. We sat somewhat uncomfortably in the dimly lit back row of the photography club meeting. However, it took all of two seconds to learn Mary’s photography style is enviable. Lauri, another impressive photography club member, sat between us and assured me, the newbie, that only the cool girls sat in the back of the room. I laughed. It would be nice to experience being a cool girl at least once in my life.
Over time, months actually, little snippets of conversation became more comfortable between Mary and me. As an introvert, opening up to others comes with massive amounts of adrenaline leakage, so I take relationships slow. All things considered, it seemed reasonable that Mary was an introvert as well. As her photographs shone brilliantly on the screen, she would say something modest like… “Those are the northern lights over Lake blah, blah, blah. I took the shots while angling the camera out of my car’s sunroof. Next.” The room vibrated with laughter. I came to learn Mary often takes photos from some orifice of her car; a running joke among the photography club regulars.
This past week our photography club celebrated 2016 with a “year in review” Christmas party. The room, dotted with festive tables, candles, and lots and lots of food, felt intimate and familiar. Nearby a slide show flickered our best-submitted work in five-second intervals.
Mary opted to sit with my husband, a couple of other members, and me. What warmed my heart is that Mary and I now converse easily and happily. Feasting on the potluck meal, somehow the dinner small-talk turned to funerals. Mary said, “I want my epitaph to say, ‘She stopped once too often.’”
My husband nearly snorted his mouthful of raspberry Jell-O through his nose and then couldn’t stop laughing. The image of Mary stopping her car in the middle of a busy road, hanging out of the sunroof and taking some wickedly jaw-dropping photos was all too real. While her earlier quietness remains, we now know her as a warm, daring, and funny soul.
As the Christmas party came to a close, the members put on thick winter coats and expressed lingering Minnesota goodbyes. My husband gave Mary a bear hug and wished her a Merry Christmas. She beamed, returned the sentiment, and then asked, “Where’s Gail?” I put down my armful of food-spattered potluck containers and wandered out of the kitchen. “I’m here.”
Mary came over, and we embraced. How far we have come in a matter of months. I still envy her photographic talent, of course. It’s just that now we talk, we laugh at ourselves, and we laugh together, in total comfort.
Maybe, just maybe, we really are the cool girls.