Lucky Strike

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I do not spend my life looking for perfect moments, intervals when the world and I have become perfectly attuned to each other and events unfold exactly the way I would choose to have them. But to be shown the lady in white, by the son of the man who made the photograph, in the room where the picture was taken and printed, was surely such a moment. Walking into that studio with Glenn as a guide, I had felt as if I’d been transported backward in time. Seeing the lady in white there, I felt touched by some kind of grace.

I’ll show you the 18 x 22s,” M Glenn offered. I could sense JL. the intern’s dismay; an elderly man handling precious glass negatives.

I asked, “What was her name?”

“Lela.”

“She was certainly beautiful,” I said.

“Also extravagant,” Glenn replied.

“How do you mean?”

“She spent too much money. She had expensive tastes, you know, and in those days you couldn’t just declare bankruptcy and forget about it. Her husband, my uncle, jumped an early train one morning in 1907 and never came back. He went to El Paso, Texas, and lived there.”

I was so startled to learn that this woman of such radiant beauty might have had a human failing that I did not think just then to ask more about her.

Glenn showed us the other large negatives, one by one, handling each big, heavy piece of glass with care and assurance. When we had seen them all and each had been returned to its place, I could feel Kelley’s unspoken relief.

I asked Glenn if he ever made prints from the glass negatives.

“All the time.”

“Would you make one for us of LeIa—the lady in white?”

“Oh, sure. Do you want it black and white or browntoned, the way old solar prints were? I use selenium for the brown effect, and it works pretty well.”

“That would be wonderful.”

By then it seemed to Edie and me that we had taken enough of Glenn’s time for one afternoon. But I had to ask, “What happened to Lela?”

“She found herself. She became a teacher in Greeley and raised two fine children. She died in 1943, but her grandchildren are still living.”

And Lela, in the beauty of her youth, radiant with her love of life and strength of character, is still living, too, in that portrait taken of her in her white dress so long ago.