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A CERTAIN GIRL by Ann Diamond

BOOK DESCRIPTION AND REVIEWS - EXCERPT

 


On a day in the spring of 1956, my parents dressed my brother and me in brand new outfits, my mother put on makeup and her best, camel-hair coat, and we all went for a drive in the countryside near Montreal. We took along our puppy, Smokey, wrapped in a blanket in case he peed on the seats of our new car. Not long before, my father had agreed to enrol me in a special program, whose directors were very interested in bright little girls like me. In the photographs my father took that day, my brother wears a happy, trusting expression for the camera, whereas I am squinting as if I am being dragged off to the dentist, instead of going on a pleasant drive through the country. I am wearing a matching coat and hat, and holding into my puppy, Smokey, for dear life.

Our country drive, in our Sunday best, took us on winding, tree-lined roads, and I do remember getting out of the car to have our picture taken. It seems to me my father told us there was a limestone quarry somewhere nearby, as I remember visualizing white rock, and a big hole in the ground, as my mother described what a limestone quarry looks like. I still have the photos, showing my mother standing next to the car, holding her hair away from her forehead, because it is blowing in the wind. She is smiling, as if this were a particularly auspicious day in our lives. We look prosperous and successful: a middle class family out for a Sunday drive. The question arises: why are we so dressed up, if we are not visiting someone special? I seem to remember that moment, and getting back into the car, and continuing to drive down a narrow country road, and the tree branches meeting overhead, forming a kind of tunnel. I am feeling restless, uneasy. We seem to drive for hours, in our strangely formal clothes, and yet we are going nowhere. I want to go home, but we keep on driving, as the trees form a tunnel overhead into which we might disappear, and I feel myself entering into a hypnotic state, and then there is a bright white light which floods our car, and I feel so sleepy, and it seems we are going up, high in the air. And after that I remember nothing more of what happened, or when we turned around, or how we got home.