Off the Beaten Path

Bourbon Barrel Table by Donnie Wittler

My dad was a T/sgt in the USAF. On week ends, when he was stationed in Japan, he developed photographs in his dark room in the closet.  He had a good eye, I now see in hindsight.    

"Take shorthand and typing," he said.  "If something happens to your husband, you can always get a job as a secretary." He was practical.

I got a job as a service representative at Illinois Bell Telephone in Wheaton, a wealthy suburb west of Chicago. The commuter train ran through the middle of town and quaint shops framed each side. They were the kind of shops you just knew were expensive. I was a Sears or JC Penny's girl. 

One day, on my lunch hour, I found myself, standing on carpet in one of those softly lit boutiques. There were perfectly placed mirrors and racks of color coordinated clothing, that draped. Being out of my element, I decided to try on something different. Linen pants. Two pairs. One in bright orange, the other, fuchsia with matching floral blouses.  I stared in the mirror, bright and sixties bold. I hate this, I said. And I bought both outfits. I knew if I chose what I liked, it would be more of the same, only expensive. 

My dad loved it! He's not one to usually comment on clothing. For some reason, his reaction affected me. It's not that I needed his approval. There was just something different in his intensity. I was never the same after that compliment. And neither was my style. 

Tachikawa, Japan, photo by Ray Zabielski