Maybe it is for this very moment that I have been cataloguing pictures and watching family movies for most of this decade, writing, fretting, and trying to see clearly and to say what is true. I have hours of DVDs, hundreds of pages of words, and a row of file boxes with year-by-year photographs, love letters, death certificates, sonograms, a hankie from World War I, passports, and locks of babies’ hair.  So when asked to show my life in five pictures, the raw materials were there – I had only to put myself to the heart-stopping task of summing up. My first thoughts were to use pictures with the people who have meant the most to me. Before long, I reached the happy conclusion that there are too many of them. Besides, I chose to believe that the challenge of this assignment was for me to show ME. It is my life, after all.

So, I went time-traveling through my boxes and after a while, I whittled the pictures down to ten or so, then to five. Soon they began to speak to me. I had my theme.

Number one,   selling it: At 7, thrilled with myself (1957). Number two, selling what I don’t own: At 25, pretending to be a dancer (1975). Number three, Selling what I do own: At 30, after my business’s first big event (1980). Number four,  Hoping I still have something to sell, fearing I don’t:At 50, at my birthday celebration (2000). And number five, selling is beside the point. At 59, with Noah. I’ve got the whole world in my hands. I am writing and thinking and living with a fearlessness I have never known before. (2009)


Shelley Singer lives in Bethesda, Maryland and Manhattan. She graduated from NYU in 1970 and earned an M.A. in French Literature from The George Washington University. After several years in book publishing, she launched an event management company that became her work for over twenty-five years, first in New York and then in the DC metro area. She has been writing, quietly, for a long time. Now things are starting to get louder.>

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