Thursday, November 25, 2010

Photos To Unlock The Memories

The first thing a kid does when visiting her parents is:

A. Remove her shoes, so Dad doesn't panic about high heels ruining the hardwood floor and
B. She goes straight to the kitchen and opens the refrigerator

This is what I always do at least. Time and time again.

On a particular evening last month, however, I kicked off my shoes and went directly to the steel gray storage cabinets in the garage. On the far left side of the back wall, I found the box I was looking for. A large, corrugated box distinctly stamped with my mothers handwriting: Family Photos. I pulled down the box and casually walked back inside to set it down on the kitchen table. Mom lifted her head in the kitchen and asked me what I'd like in my tea. "Milk and sugar," I responded.

She shuffled around and slowly emerged to join me at the kitchen table. My heart filled with joy. Sitting down to look through the memories of what was is always a treat, especially when I get to do it with my Mom.

She took a seat at my left and settled in as I opened the box and pulled out the first photo box marked 1985. The flood of memories and non-existent memories began. We flipped through baby pictures, inside family jokes she caught on film, bad outfits, and bad hair. We looked at the furniture and the background and setting of each glossy square.

So much I remember and so much I do not. I want to know more. I sought after the family photos to uncover our foggy family history. Memories are beginning to fade in my head, and I want to recover them. Memories are beginning to fade in my Mom's mind too. Sitting down to go through these photos is fun and entertaining, but the exercise is also my great attempt at going into the dark  room to make those vanishing images and family memories reemerge in my mind and in my Mom's.

I want to know about long lost relatives, family foods, and traditions. I want to know why I made paper crowns for every family birthday party. What foods were sitting on the table? Who was at the table? What house were we in? What was that house like? What were we talking about? I'm beginning my search through the fog, and I am not going to give up easily. This information is valuable and I must recover it.
We sat there 4x6 after 4x6, laughing, tearing up, and losing track of three and a half hours. We didn't even make it through three full photo boxes. Mom showed me the black and whites of her childhood, describing the white house on 5th Street and the first house my Dad and her bought.

My heart is full. I know, this is just the beginning of the journey.

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