She is beautiful as she stands with one arm on a 1920’s convertible roadster; the other arm is bent to grasp one hand with the other. Her dark skirt clings tightly around her fit body, the outline of one leg clearly visible as one foot is placed on the running board. Her companion, a slender, good-looking man dressed in cuffed, loose fitting slacks and a fashionable touring jacket, stands to her right. He has dark curly hair, bright eyes and a winning smile.

This photograph portrays a different image I had of Mother’s experience growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee. If she had had the choice to marry the man in the photograph rather than my father, she would have had a very different life.

Mother’s life with my Father was hard. One of nine children, he grew up on a farm also and had only completed the ninth grade. His work hauling cattle ended in tragedy when the driver of one of his trucks was killed in an accident.

It was virtual survival for my Mother to go to work. She found a job working in a shoe factory. There were six of us in a tiny, two-bedroom house with no indoor toilet. Her work was hard and exhausting. Her high school diploma helped her to get a job as clerk in the local office supply store. With her intuitive management skills and ease with people she became the manager of the store within a couple of years. This income, along with my Father’s work at a variety of jobs, allowed us to move into a middle-class suburban lifestyle.

It was about a year before my mother died that we had been talking about the unique photo. Her veined hand put the photo back in the shoe box, then held a picture of my father who had died several years before. Her misty eyes looked up from the photo and met mine. Her physical beauty had faded but I could see the beauty in the choice she had made.

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