It seemed like just an ordinary old photo. Granddaughter Natalie was showing it to her grandmother. Grandmother Lilianna had been born in Poland but had come to her new country with her parents and siblings when she was nine.
Which one are you? asked Natalie.
Lilianna had not seen the photograph before. Where did you find it?
It was with a pile of stuff in a box, said Natalie. What are the names of your brothers and sisters?
Lilianna pointed them out as she named them. There’s Franciszek and Filip. And there’s Zofia and Maria. You know great-aunt Maria. And I don’t know who that other little girl is. She must have been visiting at the time.
But, said Natalie, it’s written in Polish on the back. Daddy translated it for me. It says “Our six children”.
The photograph had taken Lilianna back to that terrible day. She knew who that fourth girl in the photograph was. It was her sister Dominika. Dominika was still alive and living not too far away. Dominika was ostracized. She had never been spoken about for decades. And now her photograph had emerged. It brought back extraordinary memories of… of…
Can I keep the photo? asked Lilianna.
Of course, said Natalie.
After Natalie left to go home, Lilianna threw the photograph into the fire.
Now that summer’s over
I’m a season older, and find
each summer season mines
less memories. It’s kind of sad
to think of times we had.
The heat-strewn days were glad when we
were children; so carefree,
chasing bees, climbing trees – the days
all melded in a haze
of ever-sunshine glaze. And yet…
It’s easy to forget
age casts far wider nets to catch
a varied vaster batch
of joys than those dispatched to girls
and boys. For in life’s twirl
of memory there swirls wise dreams
far deeper, so it seems,
than younger days we deem as fine.
Here, in my autumn time,
(I thank this God of mine) there calls
no need to live it all again.
(Based on the Vietnamese luc bat poetic form. For those who don’t know, I usually challenge myself with a weekly poem using a set poetic form each month).
Nora didn’t have any photographs of her mother, but she had two vivid memories of her. Nora’s mother had died when Nora was quite young.
One memory was of her mother poking her head around the doorway and saying “Peekaboo! Peekaboo! I see you!” The other memory was when Nora had tripped over. She looked up at her mother and her mother said “Whoopsie-daisy!” Nora remembered her mother’s eyes. She could see the colour of her hair; the style of her hair. She could see her smile; every inch of her face. She couldn’t remember what her mother was wearing, but her face was an indelible image forever etched in Nora’s memory.
And then… how exciting! One of Nora’s older brothers found a box of old photographs; a good half a dozen black and white photographs of Nora’s mother. There she is at the beach! There she is cooking on the camp fire! There she is… All were taken before Nora’s time. Nora didn’t know her then, of course.
But now something had happened. The photographs had replaced Nora’s memory. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember what her mother looked like.
Old Mrs Greville leaned over her garden gate and surveyed the street. She was eighty-four and had lived in the same house for sixty-two years. The street hadn’t changed much. Some hedges had come and gone. New owners had planted others.
Three children; nine grandchildren. That was satisfying. Her husband had died now nigh on thirteen years. And the garden here! Goodness! She had planted yellow climbing roses at the gate early in the marriage. Long gone, the roses. Long gone. But the pansies had wept a stint of sixty-two generations. They’d reverted to a common blue but each with different flecks of black. Year after year. Never the same. It used to be a cottage garden, but now it was too much work and quite overgrown.
Two dogs, three cats and a canary all buried in that garden. Pets. Little crosses had once marked the spots. Rotted away, the crosses, some time ago.
And the cook-outs. The fun! The kids playing ball and camping in the back garden in summer. Pretending to be in some great national park with bear and moose and chattering wolf, but with nothing scarier than a cat or a dog. And mumps and measles and chicken pox. Year after year of kids’ home works and sports games and girlfriends and boyfriends… And then their weddings celebrated in the garden…
And friends. Young Mr and Mrs Greville’s friends on the back porch. Calling and drinking and laughing on occasion, sometimes till almost the sun came up. Most passed now. Most long passed.
Old Mrs Greville left the gate and went into the house. She made a nice cup of tea.
The house was sold. Tomorrow she would move to the retirement home.