Photographer’s journey: Discovering and exploring my sexuality for the first time

As a child I stood in the hall outside the open door of my parents’ bedroom listening to the sound of my father’s breathing. He couldn’t sleep. My mother said I mustn’t disturb him as he was recovering from a heart attack and was weak from his World War II injuries. He was in his underwear, lying on the top of the sheets, arms outstretched. I was yearning to crawl up beside him. He was my playmate. The window was wide open and brought in a breeze from the June heat but also the constant whiz of the trucks on Highway Rt. 22.

My father said he needed some quiet time to rejuvenate. It was just a few months later that I kissed the dancing dolls on my wallpaper goodbye as my father was moving us to the New Jersey shore town, Point Pleasant. He said, he could heal better in the nature. Mother’s royal fabric decor, Queen Anne chairs, amply carved mahogany dining room set was repositioned in a ranch house, a stone’s throw from the Manasquan River. While my father was occupied with recovery, I was left to explore. I gathered branches together into a teepee within view of our home. My mother gave me extra curtains from the old house for its covering. I made mud-pies and bundled pine needles into lunch bags so there would be ‘food’ preserved when I played after school. I liked the pin-prink sensation of long pine needles on my fingers. I would break them in half to enjoy a clean, fresh fragrance. One day I took a few strands inside my panties and touched myself. It was comforting to escape into my own body sensation and I continued this for the summer.

The woods, a place of mystery, finally was bringing my father’s power back. When he was out of bed, I took him to the five-sided ‘elephant’ tree with smooth grey bark where I climbed to the top. We hung upside down on one of its limbs and experimented with daydreaming. Our eyes searched the sky for clues as to what lies ahead. He had been on such a long traumatic recovery as a disabled war veteran after World War II and also struggled to bring his compromised sexuality back after the shell shocks and shrapnel were lodged in his body. My mother lacked sexual fulfillment and it hurt her well-being. She saw a psychiatrist who suggested a surrogate lover. This was outside the norm in the 1950’s and still is today. It was never arranged. When you feel out of tune with your body and your spirit, you lose self-confidence. I saw firsthand that the lack of erotic impulse in my mother’s relationship lead to a loss of serenity and health. I instinctually felt positive about touching myself probably in reaction to my parent’s struggle.

written by Linda Troeller

featured image copyright Linda Troeller from the book Orgasm