Well, I've been blind all these wasted years
and I thought I was so wise
But then you took me by surprise...
Like waking up from the longest dream,
how real it seemed
Until your love broke through...
Today’s Daily Gen-X Photo is taken from a 35mm slide and features young teenage girls in a Sunday School class at a Baptist church in the South. It was taken in 1981, the same year Reagan was shot and Princess Diana got married. A reader sent it to me along with a few dozen other images, which I will be sharing in the weeks to come.
The girls in this picture are my age, give or take a year. They were born between 1967 and 1969. The girl in the middle wearing the beige dress with the lavender ribbon? Someone made that dress from a Simplicity pattern. I know this because my older sister Becky made several dresses just like it. She let me borrow one for a photo she had made of me at an Olan Mills Studio in 1981. It was a tiny brown floral print trimmed with brown satin ribbon.
Many dress patterns of that era were inspired by Gunne Sax, a label that became associated with pioneer, Edwardian, and Victorian-style designs. Most Gunne Sax dresses were made out of floral prints and trimmed with lace, ribbon, velvet, and/or burlap. In the early 1980s, the brand, which was established in 1967, gave rise to the prairie-dress trend. This fact is evidenced by my freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior class pictures. I attended high school in Southeast Kansas, the sunflower of the Heartland, where trends arrived late and stayed too long.
By the way, I’ve always thought it was kind of strange that the first wave of Gen-X girls raised during the most anti-child phase in modern history was the target market for such old-world, innocent designs. What to make of it? I’m not sure. Fashion has always mystified me but those are thoughts for another day.
The girls in this picture are innocent, too. And beautiful. There’s a stillness in this picture, though, and a coldness. A gray-haired, middle-aged man teaching young girls. I have no idea what he was saying to them or what passage of Scripture he was drawing from that day. Maybe the tension in that room is my imagination. Perhaps they look pensive because someone is taking their picture. Also, there are boys in the class. You can see the backs of their heads.
I don’t want to project a falsehood on this image. I wasn’t there. I was also a young teenager once in a strict evangelical church. My Sunday School class was taught by a middle-aged man. He was amazing. I don’t know whatever happened to Mr. White but when I get together with old friends from those days we all talk about how wonderful he was. He never condemned us, only provided gentle instruction. One day he gave each of us four colored pencils: red, yellow, blue, and green. He told us that as we made our way through the Bible to underline the words of Jesus in red; the word “word” in yellow; the word “life” in green and the word “water” in blue. I couldn’t wait to fill my Bible with lots of colorful underlined words.
Whether the tension in this room is real or imagined, the best observation I have to offer is hanging on the wall in that Sunday School class. Did you see it? Look closely. It is Jesus, the Savior of the world, in an antique frame. He is standing at the door with waves at His feet. The night sky over Jerusalem is full of stars. He is in Zion, the city where He was crucified and with shepherd’s staff in hand, He is knocking at the door.