Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Red Umbrella

A long time ago, when I was in grade ten, I decided to look at the photo gallery companion to my high school's (then) website. In it, I found over 100 photos that were taken on the 2005 grade nine orientation trip to Britannia Park. Intrigued at finding photos of myself as I'd gone on that trip at the beginning of grade nine, I slowly made me way through each photo, looking in the backgrounds, foregrounds, and 'middle-grounds' of each. I found a photo of a nice teacher who I remembered patched up my foot and realized with a shock that it was my present friend J. Graham, saw photos of many people I knew, group leaders and teams showing off, co-presidents...but no me.

In the selection of 115 photos, I could not find a clear picture with me somewhere in it. Maybe I was off somewhere in a group surrounded by people to be seen, in the background, but I could not find me or any part of me anywhere.

I figured it out upon looking at a crowd shot near the end. This was a shot of all the grade nines sitting on the ground watching a team show off their cheer. During this time, while sitting on the ground, the grey overcast sky threatened rain, and I had put up my red umbrella as a caution. Only one person, a girl, was annoyed about it, so I kept it over me as I sat on the ground surrounded by young people. 

Looking at this photo taken from the back of the crowd, at the very left edge of scene, the tip of my umbrella could be seen amongst the heads of people on the ground. 

So. I had managed to become part of that official photo selection of that day. Or at least part of me. Or at least part of something I was holding.

All right!

Out of pure coincidence, this photo appeared in my grade nine yearbook. There's a page dedicated to the grade nine day. That photo isn't in there. It's one of the random photos they inserted in the grade nine section of mugshots. The opposite page of my own mugshot. Plus, my team leader of that day had a photo of her on the main page (looking for my group), and lots of people I knew appeared. You couldn't tell if my umbrella (or bit of it that snuck in) was red or not, because since that photo was on an ordinary mugshot page, it's in black and white. It appears grey, like the sky that day.

I lost that famous umbrella years ago. It was a nice one. I think I left it on the bus sometime in grade nine. These days I use a huge white one with black stripes. Or one with red stripes. They haven't shown up in any photos pertaining to that high school I went to, or yearbooks, or any kind of media, but who knows. Maybe they'll be famous like my red one once was. Despite that girl's annoyance, it did triumph in protecting me from potential rain, obscuring me from people I didn't want to see that day (to be explained elsewhere), and inserting some aspect of myself in one photo out of 115. I have a photo record of it so I knew what it looked like and can refer to that photo. I don't mean to sound conceited, I just wanted to find a photo of myself within hundreds of photos of everyone else. I rarely ever saw photos of me anywhere. I was virtually invisible in high school up to a point.

That's why I'm proud of that minute accomplishment. Maybe I don't have the umbrella anymore, maybe it isn't that noticeable in the photo (esp. it being in monochrome), but it still appeared. Plus, it made me stand out. No one else had an umbrella opened over the sea of heads in that crowd. I think it would have been interesting looking (to me) at the time.

Wherever that umbrella is now, I hope it still works. Long live that red umbrella!

-Justin C. 

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