That's me but it also looks like my mother when she was a little girl. I drew it from a memory of a faded photograph of myself at 3 1/2 standing in the Gulf of Mexico.
I don't remember playing in the water but I do recall other parts of the trip I took with my mother by train from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas.
I remember the porter making up the bed and then coming back in because I dropped my toothbrush between the bed and the wall. I can hear the clack-clack of wheels on rails and see the lights as we pulled into a station, the mail pouch on a hook.
Everything is brown in my memory including Brownsville station — small, wooden and dimly lit by a single yellow bug light. A man came dashing up to meet us in a brown suit, tie and hat. My mother called him 'Brownie' and he called her 'Toots'. They hugged like old friends.
"Is he Brownie because of his clothes?" I wanted to know but my mother ignored me and continued to casually ignore me for the rest of the visit. I came to see this as a gift; I saw her as someone besides my mother, on her own and being herself and also letting me be myself which I took to like a duck in water. She hung out with her sister and women friends and I hung out with my grandfather who had a pure, uncomplicated love for me that I could feel and which I held as a touchstone for the rest of my life. I was comfortable by his side as he worked.
My grandfather gave me something which I accidentally dropped through the slats of what I thought was a raft; I remained unbearably sad about it. Years later, I asked my mother what it was. She remembered my hysterics. "It was just a yellow daisy and you were on the dock."
We stepped over the border into Mexico and into dirt roads, dust and color. I followed behind my mother and her sister and friends, twirling in a bright green cotton dress with colorful embroidery and ribbons. I picked up the travel bug and never let it go.