The memories, so far, have been hard. Not my own; those will have time to haunt me later. No, the hard ones right now are those that come from Mom sifting through the family photos, as she dates and sorts and tells stories. The ones that accompany the jewelry we’re sorting through, pieces from my grandmother and great grandparents. The locket that I now own, probably, Dad thinks, from my great aunt – the one whose husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, came home, told his wife, and then went into the bedroom and shot himself. Holding the small, light yellow outfit that Mom dressed me in before she carried me home from the hospital for the first time.
I was telling Mom in email, recently, that I want to hear the stories, because there’s so much of my childhood that’s a blank slate, that I feel like I should remember but I don’t. And then I can glance at a photograph of the living room from a house I haven’t seen in 15 years, from a living room set that hasn’t existed for about as long, and point to a single corner and tell her that’s where I was standing when I dropped the Weeble Spaceship (aka vegetable steamer) on my ankle, slicing it to the bone, and then tell her all about the hospital trip, layout of the emergency room, how they treated me, the turkey gloves, and my terror at the headless person in the curtained exam room next to me. All clear as day, something that happened 28 years ago. …perhaps I have always had that innate interest in medicine? (And yes, I promise to tell the Weeble Spaceship story room.)
I want to hear these stories, so that I can turn around and share them with the nieces and nephews to come. To continue family history, and our jokes that are the surface wrapping of the deep love we share.
But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s so, so hard to stay stoic, to revel in the experience without wallowing in the sorrow.
Speaking of pictures, I know I’ve shown you pictures of my family in recent years, but I don’t think I ever realized just how beautiful my mother is, and was when I was younger.
To prove it, and to provide a laugh for those of you who know what my siblings look like, a family photo. (These were all taken at an uncle’s wedding, 20 years ago.) I’m relatively certain you can figure out which one is me.