Plaid Memories in Black and White
by Deborah Fries
We cannot rely on memory to reconstruct lost places. Memories become spare and skeletal or diffuse and impressionistic, even monochromatic. Decades after my childhood ended, my father would often remind me of a favorite but flawed memory. "I can still see that day down at Buxton," he'd recall, "and you in your little pink bathing suit, walking away from me on the beach until you disappeared."
The bathing suit was orange plaid, I’d remind him, not pink. But because our earliest summer trips to North Carolina’s Outer Banks were documented in black and white, photographic evidence remained open to interpretation. We had stacks of black and white, spiral-bound photo books that captured us in the surf or mugging for the camera in sea oats, taking a ferry ride, and holding up fish in a colorless world.
The author in her orange plaid bathing suit at the Cavalier Motel, 1957. Photo by Harold Fries.