I was seven when that photo was taken in the Cactus Flats apartment building lobby, all limbs and brown wavy hair. It was four months after my parents divorce. Dad was in the process of moving into his new apartment in Dallas, while we stayed with my mom back in our hometown of Sherman. He had every other weekend with me and my baby brother Toby, but I don’t remember why he’s not in the picture. Maybe a mover is holding him. His new landlady, Shelia was the one who took the picture. She had big pineapple earrings and a beehive with fake flowers on it, and baby pink fingernails that held the camera as she called “Smile, honeybear!” But I didn’t smile, and Dad isn’t even looking at the camera. He’s looking at the blonde woman who would become my stepmother three years later. But she’s a story for another day. After that picture was taken, Shelia played with us as Dad wrapped things up. She was nice, and upon seeing that white cowgirl hat I wore just about everywhere she asked if I was going to be a cowgirl when I grew up. When I said yes, she told me all about Dale Evans and how she was better than Roy Rogers. But before she could tell me about Annie Oakley, Dad said we had to go. He had tickets to the rodeo and he didn’t want us to be late. But don’t worry, she told me all about Annie Oakley. After that day, I looked forward to seeing my dad, but not because of him. It was because of Shelia, who became the aunt I never had. She taught me everything from cowgirls to how to put on makeup, and spoke to me as an equal for the first time in my life. She was there for me more than my dad or my stepmother were, that’s for sure. God, I miss her.
Story by Catherine Tier