Thirteen’s The Charm

A family friend from my childhood forwarded this picture to me a few days ago and I loved it for so many reasons…

It was taken at my childhood home in Visalia outside by the pool…

It was June and my mother’s birthday…

My father was still alive and wearing his new cool 70’s glasses (not flattering but hey, lots of things in the 70’s weren’t).

My Mom looks fabulous–she still does–but she’s young and wearing a pretty dress and I can tell she feels pretty here.

My sister has short hair… but at least she looks like a girl here.

I’m the 1970’s version of Harry Potter in my striped shirt, short hair and big glasses.  (I guess the 70’s frames didn’t look so hot on me, either…)


I’m thirteen in the picture above. I’ve just finished 7th grade at Green Acres Jr High and we’re about to head to Europe for a year so my dad could teach higher ed courses for the military in Nurnberg and Wurtzberg.

In Germany we were home schooled by our parents for a year, and when my dad wasn’t teaching, we traveled for weeks at a time throughout Europe in our VW camper van. During that year I also discovered Gummi Bears, ABBA and contact lenses. Although we were civilians we got to go onto base to buy peanut butter and Sugar Frosted Flakes. I bought my first Harlequin romance in Europe, as well as my first Barbara Cartland romance, and by the time the year was over I was addicted to young secretaries and their seductive, sophisticated bosses as well as impetuous duchesses and handsome rakes.

A little over two years after this picture was taken my dad would be gone, Europe would be behind us, and I’d soon start my sophomore year of high school. I would soon learn hard, heartbreaking things about life, but I hadn’t learned them yet, not in the photo above.

No, I was thirteen and rather lonely. I didn’t have enough friends and I spent a lot of time alone reading and writing poetry. I had an unflattering Dorothy Hamill hair cut and heavy glasses and huge dreams.

Someday I’d be pretty. Someday I’d be popular. Someday I’d  have a boyfriend.

I wish I could tell that awkward lonely thirteen year old Jane how much I love her. And how proud of her I am.


PS I have an unclaimed prize that needs a home! Want a chance to win something fun? Post a comment–any comment–and I’ll draw and announce the winner Saturday morning!


  1. Oh Jane… 70’s Harry Potter, I LOVE it!! Don’t feel lonely in the look of the 70’s… we all suffered back then, lol. I don’t think I matched in any of my pictures or outfits (courduroy yellow flowered red pants with a brown and white striped top) – very sad!! But oh what great memories 🙂 It’s great going back to such wonderful memories, isn’t it?! Hope your February is off to a great start chica ~ <3 J

  2. Jane, how sweet and lovely! Your mom looks like Shirley Temple and those glasses on your dad – cool!
    I started wearing glasses at 11 and by 13 I had changed from a tom boy to an avid reader (mom would tell me to get my nose out of a book and get my chores done) who was very shy. I was taller than my older brother then and I had feelings and hopes stirring inside me that even I didn’t understand. How I wanted to be pretty!
    If only 13 year olds could see just how beautiful they are. Of course mothers tell you, but what 13 year old thinks their mother knows anything!
    Thanks for sharing a glimpse of your younger self that brought back memories of a simpler time.

  3. Don’t need a prize, but Jane,we were all fashion victims in the 70’s! It just couldn’t be helped. Happy February!

  4. hi Jane,

    OMG! oh yeah, thirteen was an awkward age..I remember how shy and unconfident I felt when I was thirteen. I had the big, heavy glasses as well and a bad haircut. I guess most of us were in the same boat back then.

  5. What a lovely post. I just spent 10 days with my father and while there we looked through quite a few photographs..many from when my parents were still married to each other and my grandmother was still alive. It’s amazing the feelings that a photograph can create.

  6. Really sweet post Jane. I also had that haircut since my mom tried to give me a home perm that went so bad, we had to go get most of my hair cut off. Add that to the big glasses and short shorts, my kids laugh hysterically at my 13 year old picture. At that time, my family was about to embark on a 33 day summer road trip in an unconditioned van around the country, visiting all sorts of family and seeing everything along the way. At the time, it was torture but now one of the things my four siblings and I really appreciate.

  7. Pictures…they are the greatest invention really! They allow us to relive so many moments we might not recall otherwise!
    Thanks for sharing, Jane.

  8. Thanks for that blast from the past, Jane. I recall striped shirts being very popular in the seventies. My mom bought all four kids one (and there is 15 years between me and the eldest) – and we wore them and wore them and wore them. I outgrew mine but wish I still had it!

  9. Your mom is very pretty–you look just like her! Nice memories and photo : )

    You are a beautiful person, insided and out. Very inspiring, especially to other women!

    If you survived the 70’s, then you can survive anything. Polyester lives forever ; )

  10. I so enjoyed reading this today…you did get it all and lots more too!!! I think going through those awkward years helps us in nurturing our own children and instilling self esteem.

  11. thanks for sharing the pic of your family. i remember that awkward stage, how i disliked it. didn’t have glasses, though. i also remember my mom telling me that i would grow into my beauty. have a great weekend, jane.

  12. I can see the Harry Potter resemblance in the glasses. I also remember 13 was a terrible age. 1976 was when I was 13 years old.
    I didn’t have the bone structure for the Dorothy Hamil hairstyle but you did.

    To this day I still love listening to ABBA. (Thank you Meryl Streep for Mamma Mia)

    It wasn’t until 1981 that I got my first taste of a romance novel I was graduating high school that year.

    Today I am just wising for the sun to come out. This has been the dreariest winter this year.

  13. Well, Jane, I think you more than made up for being pretty and successful and having wonderful friends!! I think you’re pretty awesome and your childhood had a huge impact on you being who you are today. Sorry that you lost your dad so young. No child should have to go through that pain. I am proud of you and your accomplishments and also proud to be a fan and friend to you.


  14. Hola Jane

    You forgot fun, someone with alot of friends and your boys that love you.

    I just love looking at old photos. Thanks.

  15. I love photos like this… one of the things I like best about Facebook is snooping through the photo albums… and it’s a surefire guarantee that if I am in your house and you have a photo album on your coffee table I am going to ask to see it.

    I was a chunky 13 year old in Howick Star wide leg pants… got my first pair of clogs at 15. I learned macramé and had very long straight hair. I think 13 is awkward for just about everyone and yet we all manage to grow out of it nicely.

  16. I ;oved your story! I felt the same way at thirteen, I wore ugly glasses that I’d keep on top of my head, didn’t have many friends either and read alot,too. The best part was that summer I went to Italy for 3wks and I had a greattime and met so many friends, we still keep in touch. We sure cvhange thru the years, thanks for sharing and we just get better thru age. I hope I win, its been awhile but I love reading your books. Have a good weekend. I love the picture!

  17. Wow. That just made me cry. It was so hard to be thirteen and reading this just touched a nerve. I think the glasses I had at thirteen had a dusty rose frame and huge. I had braces and wore one of those roach clips feather things in my hair. UGH!

  18. i love the nostalgic feel of the picture. i was also awkward at 13 and a lot has changed since then. my 13 year old self would be proud of who i’ve become since then. 🙂

  19. Hi Jane -Don’t fret on what you looked like or what you wanted to look like. Thirteen is such an awkward age for both boys and girls. Not happening!! There weren’t any stylish glasses for teens and under back then. Don’t dwell on it sweetheart, look at what you have become a drop dead gorgeous women with three gorgeous sons and a famous author to boot. But i struck a cord in me that I did not wish to ever remember. I think it struck a cord in everyone who eas thirteen once and that means all of us and I don’t want to go back there.

  20. Everyone goes through the awkward phase of 13, but for me I’m glad its out of the way. The years after age 13 were when I finally started to figure out who I was and where I was going with life. The awkward part is what helped make me who I am now, and honestly, I’m proud to be me!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  21. always love when you share stories/pictures about your family.

    Jane, I’m opening wide my door to let the unwanted prize come in(if I win); nothing/no one should be unwanted. It is quite welcome in my home.

  22. I love looking at old photos. Lets face it we all looked the same in the 70’s and I think the we are going back to the 70’s now. The glasses frames are getting larger now. Although they all seem kind of square now. I can’t say I like them much. I love the round frames. in glasses. They are much better for when you have to ware byfocals.

  23. Jane
    Your family looked like a typical 70’s family and you look lovely. I think that we all feel inadequate during our teens. It is special to save and cherish these family memories.

  24. Thanks for sharing Jane~! What a great photo. I think we all feel that way at 13. It’s funny because my daughter is turning 13 this weekend and was supposed to get contacts today. The office did not pull her chart and notice her stigmatism so they did not have the right contacts on hand. So now she has to wait another week or more. She is sorely disappointed. Hopefully the birthday festivities we have planned for this weekend will cheer her up. The middle school years are hard ones! But, as I learned myself, it does get better! Fashion included!

    Have a great weekend. Hope its a stressfree, calm and happy one for you.

  25. Jane, you were such a lovely young lady with the sweet-looking glasses. And you are still beautiful as ever (minus the glasses). You are loved!


  26. Hi Jane,
    I love looking at ‘old’ pictures. They bring back so many fun memories. I also like scrapbooking pictures. If you ever need a scrapper, you’ve found one.


  27. I loved reading your story about the pictures and years to follow. Life was so much simpler back when we were kids. Life has a way of throwing the bad at us all at once as a lesson. It’s how you overcome the lessons that really counts and you did very well for yourself over the years. You did grow up to be all those things you mentioned and so much more. We are snowed in today. Yes, in Dallas, snow. I had big plans for tomorrow to celebrate my birthday but it looks like all this snow will turn to ice by morning. So, we’ll be stuck at home again.

  28. Isn’t it amazing the emotions and memories that can come flooding back with a single image captured in time? Thanks for always sharing honestly about your life – past and present – with us, your readers. It makes reading your books even richer!

  29. Great photo, Jane. I remember the big glasses that always slid down my nose. I also was a reader and writer of poetry at that age. Guess some things never change. Thanks for taking us down memory lane.

  30. What a picture. you can tell and share so much just for one picture 🙂 thanks for sharing Jane. Always enjoying your posts !

    ‘1970’s version of Harry Potter’ sounds Cute ^_^b

  31. Oh, Jane, that is a fun & wonderful picture! I wish I could tell my 13-year-old self a thing or too as well. I would have been your friend!

    Happy Friday!

  32. I loved this post. I love to look at old photos and think similar thoughts – if only I knew then what I know now or what I’d tell my younger self if I could, or advice for a different outcome of a decision I or someone else was about to make.

  33. Jane, thanks for sharing. You made me a bit sentimental for the girl I once was and like you, I wish I could have told that geeky, eyeglass wearing 13 yr old nerd how much life had in store for her. As for 13yr old Jane…well, hot dang! look at her now!

  34. Tell her Jane. Tell the beautiful woman, the 13 year old became, that you love her. There are so many wonderful things to love about her! XO

  35. It’s always fun looking at old photographs. My kids love to make fun of my hairdo’s in my old high school pictures. Have a great weekend.

  36. I love how you remember all that Jane. I also love old family photos and it’s great to hear about all the cool things you did when you were thirteen. I hope you have a great weekend with family.

  37. I kind of feel like a mirror image of you. I got thick round glasses at 10, started reading romances at 13, imagining life was going to be so exciting and a happy fairytale like all the books I loved. Hmm, it didn’t quite work out that way, but hey, I still love the books and I’m ok with who I turned out to be too. Hope the house-hunting is going well, Jane, and hope you have a great weekend 🙂

  38. Your family looks so happy in this photograph! Thanks for sharing it! I felt the same way at age 13…and many of the years before and after that age, too. I grew up in the 80’s, so it’s hilarious to look back at pictures of myself growing up. Neon shirts, spandex shorts, mile high bangs. Pretty funny. I was pretty sad as a teenager. I did a lot of writing back then. Poetry was kind of my “escape” from everything.

  39. I had the same unflattering Dorothy Hamill haircut. But I saved the big round glasses for when I had the awful perm in the 6th grade. 🙂

  40. I was more of a Farrah Fawcett imitator, spending way too much time trying to get my hair to stay in a way that it was never meant to. What a great fun photo. Have a great weekend!

  41. Hi Jane ,

    Thanks for sharing.
    I love looking at old photos too. And I actually need to scan a lot of old photo negatives in order to preserve them. And then it´s also easier to share them with other family members.
    Have a nice weekend 🙂

  42. I love that memory. I have some similar photos from 1980 that give my own daughter a HUGE chuckle!! I love that you can share so much and reveal so much about yourself every time. That is so endearing and true-to-you.
    I am so sorry you lost your dad at such a young age; he must be so proud as he watches your life unfold.

    Love to you on this Saturday morning, Jane!!
    Shannon in Tustin

  43. P.S. I tried for a similar cut at 13, but a few years later it was Princess Diana…on my curly hair it was NONE-TOO flattering, let me tell you!! That cut and my terry-cloth rompers were a sight to behold!

  44. Hi all,

    I’m buried in this book I’m writing–my goodness its a hard one!!–but wanted to announce the winner of the prize.

    #27 Crystal Marshall you are the lucky girl!

    Crystal, if you’ll please shoot me a private email with your address, I’ll be sure to get your prize box in the next mail!

    Thank you all for your comments and sharing. I am grateful for your friendship–its truly a blessing.

  45. Jane we all have that tired sad girl inside of us. Pictures are magical the way they capture that which so many miss while in the moment. I have looked back at many moments in my life and seen so much that I missed.The saddness, the hidden worry and sometimes the peace in a persons face. Think back about many parties and holidays that you may have been responsible for and how stressed you may have been. When I see the still images of the giggles and water splashes it is both heartening and sad that it was only later that I noticed the magic. I have also seen pictures of my innocence at ten and the saddness at thirty. I love my life in pictures. It helps me to remember things I would otherwise forget. I need to remember.

  46. darn that brought me to tears. Wow can you write. I felt like i was right there. Your mom was a real beauty and she and your dad look so happy in that picture. I was born in 1971 so i didn’t get 70’s classes on 80’s glasses and i read alot of books too instead of having friends to do things with. What a great memory and i thank you for sharing it. Makes me think of my myself at 13. I grew up on a farm and went to a small catholic school with 10 kids in my grade. It only went to 8th grade and then i had to go to the public school and learn how to act around alot more kids. Along time ago but when i close my eyes and think about it was just yesterday.


    Lisa B

  47. That was lovely memories to share with us, thanks! I appreciated all you still had to experience and you were correct…you’re pretty, popular, have a boyfriend and don’t forget…are a successful and wonderful author! No prize needed, I am still so excited about my last one, and you are always so kind to share so much!

  48. Jane, how great that you have such great memories from your childhood.

    I was just looking at some family pictures- not from the 70’s since was I wasn’t even born then LOL, and it was hard for me to look at myself 6-7 years ago- I really hated how I looked since I had so many pimples and some extra weight and I told my dad I wish I could destroy some of the pictures but maybe for all of us there is a phase that we are less comfortable with how look or how we act around other people but in the end it’s just another phase in life that you need to go through.

  49. I love the memories of old photos — I recently spent an evening together with my sons, my mom and dad (both in their 80’s) looking at old photos — such precious memories and all the laughter we shared!

  50. Hi Jane,

    Happy Valentine’s Day a day late. Just reading this post now. It touched me. I had a bad Dorothy Hamill haircut as well. (You and I are the same age). Anyway, just wanted to comment that your picture made me smile today..

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