I recognized the signs.  Carnivorous eyes, accelerated breathing.  And most certainly, hidden beneath your attire that defied the pigeon-holing of any particular decade-a heart racing like a runaway train.  (I’ve found myself in a similar condition on many an occasion.)  Moreover, as amidst your rummaging, I gently broke it to you that the collection of coats, hanging on a rack outside the hall, in fact belonged to ladies attending the jumble, and weren’t for sale, I knew we were destined to become best friends.


True story.  Almost.  I’ve just altered the details slightly to protect the innocent.


Lillie McFerrin Writes


This Time

In the photograph, Bunny is celebrating her 16th birthday.  Bunny, of course,  isn’t her real name.  I can’t possibly know what her real name is.  But I’m sure about her age.  She is in front of a large cake, about to blow out her candles.  I’ve counted them twice.  Sixteen.  I was first introduced to Bunny and her family one week ago, although in truth, I don’t actually know them.  Let me explain.

The hardest part of photography, in my opinion, is waiting for the roll of film to come back, transformed, by way of chemical alchemy, into visible paper images.  (How I envy those photographers who have their own dark rooms, but I’m not there yet.)   When I looked, however, inside the envelope of prints-my stomach knotted as usual-over whether I’d just blown good money on bad pictures, or if I genuinely had some truly exceptional  photos, I was not expecting to find what I did.  Twelve black and white deckle-edged family snapshots from years ago.  The forties or fifties, judging by the way the people in the pictures were dressed.  Two teenaged girls at the beach wearing one-piece swimsuits.  Some guy in uniform.  Four figures clad in dim evening light, toasting marshmallows over a camp fire. That sort of thing.  Now the particular roll of film in question was the same as every other roll of film I’d ever used. (Kodacolor-X)  The camera was my same trusty Brownie, and my subject matter was nothing out of the ordinary. Landscapes, mostly, with a few pictures of my dog. 

The clerk at the drug store was at a loss.  He simply said it must have been some sort of error, apologized, and gave me five new rolls of film for free.


I’m looking over the latest prints I’ve picked up today. No longer  bothering with the details of setting or subject matter  (including my dog-sorry girl!) now I merely load the film into my camera, click off 12 exposures in rapid succession and hurry to the drug store.  (Those folks must think I’m a nut, I’ve been dropping off film on a daily basis.)  It’s in this latest set of pictures that Bunny is posing with her cake.  I can’t believe how fast she’s growing up!  Only six rolls ago, her parents got married (the guy in the uniform, to one of those teen-aged girls)  And three rolls ago, Bunny was learning to walk, taking her first steps on a trip to Yellowstone (right when Old Faithful spouted-the timing!)

But here’s the deal.  Even as I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for Bunny and her family-these strangers I’ve come to know and love-I’m choked by the realization that tragedy and heartache, at some point, are inevitable.   To this extent, I’ve decided never to find out-let them stay perpetually happy on Bunny’s sweetest day.  And so, this latest roll will be the last.

Besides, everyone will be using digital cameras soon.  I’m pretty sure I saw that somewhere.

P’s and Q’s

What he sees, what forms the basis of his first impression as his yellow Checker cab approaches the curb is a modish young woman in a lime green mini dress and white go-go boots, right arm arced upward, left toe pointed slightly behind as she leans into the street, hailing him.  Graceful, poised. Not unlike one of Rodin’s dancers. 

He shifts his foot onto the brake, his mind in limbo wondering if he should get out and open the door for her, or let her open it herself, but she beats him to it, her fingers competently minding the hem of her low-waisted Mary Quant knockoff as she climbs inside black leather upholstery. Her voice wears a detached self-assurance.

9th and Van Buren, please.

What he doesn’t see is how she awkwardly bangs her knee on one of the fold-down jump seats, and that her matte pink Yardley lipstick covers up a chewed lip I-feel-like-a-failure funk.


This doesn’t look right…

She pulls a scrap of paper from her orange vinyl purse, the cab idling in front of an empty lot.

Oh dear, I’ve gotten the address wrong!

The darkening bruise on her knee hurting, her charade of confidence dissolving, tears smudge her black liner-rimmed eyes.

There, there, now! 

His instant reflex of concern softens the big-city set of his burly face. 

We’ll get it sorted, Luv.

He is searching for his handkerchief-a red bandana-when the recoil of his impropriety slaps him.

Pardon me!  I didn’t mean…

She manages to laugh her tears into a smile. 

That’s ok-I don’t mind. For a moment you reminded me of my dad.

Well to tell you the truth, you remind me of my daughter.  Moved clear out to Seattle, she did, and I can barely stand it.

The floodgates open.

She reaches into her purse, pulls out a blue flowered hankie and hands it to him through the partly open partitioned window, feeling like it’s the first thing in days she’s gotten right.

The Seamstress


I call her Marjorie.

Twenty-nine cast iron pounds of gorgeous gleaming black enamel and shiny silver metal.  Plus, she has motor driven spiral gears, and an oscillating shuttle on a horizontal axis.  (Or so the instruction manual tells me.)

My 1950 Singer sewing machine.

I’m left to wonder about you, though-my fingerprints layering atop your fingerprints as I trace Marjorie’s elegant ebony surface, threading spools of Belding Corticelli mercerized cotton, or guiding, with practiced hands, exquisite material under her high grade carbon steel needle.  Paradise colored 40’s barkcloth.  Autumn plaid Pendleton wool.  Postwar raw silk-a gift from a friend. I’m wishing I’d been allowed to make your acquaintance, a kindred soul, who decades ago sat as I now do.  Back hunched in aching concentration as eyes intent on witnessing perfection oversee that seams are straight.  Raw edges evenly matched.

If I could, I’d love to ask-did you also find Marjorie to be temperamental over fiber content? (she hates anything synthetic).  Difficult to oil, but indefatigable in the face of  even the most strenuous endeavors?  Did you ever cry as you worked-over mistakes you made in stitches, or in life?  (And did you, at any time, sew through your own thumb?)

My mind wanders.  Travels back over miles of fabric, and the distance of long ago, to what we’ve shared.

What matters.

I may not have known you, but you were here.


“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
-Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie