Photos and Memories

It’s been two weeks since my last blog post.  I could say I haven’t had the time or inclination to write, but that’s a lie.  To say I haven’t had the energy, physical or mental, would be closer to the truth.  I constantly write blog posts in my head that never make it to the page…er, screen.  I totally have a good excuse–it has to do with the tiny person strapped to my chest right now–but still, it’s just that, an excuse.

And then I remembered the deck of cards on my bookshelf.  Several years back, when I was feeling restless and unhappy, despite the fact I was supposed to be enjoying my first year of marriage, I signed up for a journal-writing class.  Included in the fee for the course was the stack of oversized cards and booklet, written by the instructor, that were supposed to act as inspiration.  The idea is that you choose a card at random and, with the help of the booklet or your own imagination, write about the topic depicted there.

I pulled it off the dusty shelf today and blindly drew a card: When I Was a Child.  Fitting, because just yesterday I had dug out the handful of photos I have of myself as a baby, looking for any resemblance to baby girl.  It was hard to find.  She doesn’t have my high forehead.  Her nose is much cuter than mine.  But something in the eyes…maybe?  And the dimples, of course.

One of my favorites is a Polaroid from my first Christmas.  I am six months old, lying on my belly on the ’70s shag carpet in our living room, among the presents, some opened, some still wrapped.  I am propped on one arm and reaching for my Woodstock toy, clutching at his yellow tail feathers.  There’s a rag doll on the floor next to me, one I remember playing with well into my childhood.  One of my siblings is sitting nearby, though I couldn’t tell you which one by the left hand pictured.  There’s an expression on my face–concentration, determination–that I recognize in my baby girl, something that doesn’t exist in any one specific feature.

I don’t remember that day, obviously, but I remember that house, the other Christmases there.  I remember my favorite hiding places, dressing up in my sisters’ old dance costumes, running down the hill to play with the neighbor kids, my feet thwapping against the sidewalk so hard it sent a tingle up to my knees.  I remember my mother baking and decorating cakes there, both for our family and for her customers, and eating the scraps she’d cut off to level them out, still warm from the oven, my favorite part.

Sometimes I look around our apartment, at the still-unpacked boxes, the stragglers looking for a place in our limited space, and try to imagine baby girl crawling across these floors.  Pulling up on this furniture.  Chasing the cats around.  She won’t remember any of it.  All she’ll have are the photos that we take, the stories that we tell about her first home.

A couple of weeks ago, we received a package of old photos from Hubby’s cousin, something she had found in his aunt’s house after she passed away.  There are pictures of his mother as a little girl, which look an awful lot like the ones of Hubby when he was little.  And I figured out where baby girl gets her tiny nose from: her namesake.  A grandmother she’ll never know, who lives only in photos and memories.

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