I had a conversation with my sister today about the memories that she had when looking through yearbook photos. The leftover pieces that she remembered from her days as a senior. It compelled me to revisit the photograph album that I had always been so afraid of.
I first opened up this photograph album was when I was just a seven year old in Hawaii. Knowing that I was just a baby in those pictures, it shook me to know that I didn’t remember any of the photos that were taken. It confused me that I was left out of a certain narrative and it was up to me to interpret and put together the pieces of the past.
Not even when I rediscovered it last summer did I want to open it up. I had remembered what happened the first time I did.
I decided to venture into my sister’s room in search of gold – which was candy back in those days.
I checked where I would have hid my own stash.
Behind the cassette stereo: no luck.
Under the bed: not even a pinch.
Almost thirty minutes had gone by. If “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was playing in the background, Charlie would have already had at least two chocolate bars in the runtime. That’s two more than me.
After I had dug through the sea of stuffed animals on the dresser, I took a break. I went to the table where her white, 5 inch Panasonic television sat. I reached for the remote but noticed that it sat on top of a lime green book next to the TV.
I liked reading so I picked it up, thinking it was book. I held it closer to my weight as much as a bowl of jawbreakers, but looked more like a binder filled with notes.
On the cover were the words ONE FINE DAY. Right underneath the bold letters read:
Never forget your gentle sentiments and your warm smile. We are pleased to welcome you on your visit to the country of memories.
The cover art was a group of animals such as a giraffe, bear, and rabbits, dance around in a circle in the forest. Maybe it’s a cartoon book I thought.
I slouched into the table chair with the album in my lap. I opened it up but not without breathing in a little dust.
COUGH! COUGH! COUGH! My lungs had become a chimney.
The pages were aged to a brownish hue. They creaked like a door being opened. I put my fingers and knew that the pages were too thick to be just a regular book. It was in fact a photograph album. The plastic covering inside produced the sound of a candy wrapper. I opened up the so-called treat.
The first thing I noticed was a photo of a man and woman. The man wore a grey Baracuta Jacket like the one James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” The woman wore a chunky knit Cardigan that looked like a mixture of heather gray and white yarn. They held hands.
A few pages here and there, I saw the same man in a white suit. He’s a military man. He carries a guitar on stage. He’s was a folk singer. He wraps his arms around the woman and the children. He’s a provider.
The woman sits at a table with plates surrounding her. She’s enjoys food. She looks into the camera with the same set of eyes that she had since she was a teenager. She’s a woman. She pushes a carriage with the baby inside. The girl and boy surround her, each with cotton candy in their hands. She’s a giver.
The girl sits is dressed up in a green construction paper hat and yellow suit. She’s a dancer, a singer, and entertainer. She sits in between the baby and the boy. She’s a leader.
The boy leans her head on the girl. Its too heavy to carry. He’s a thinker. He toys around with a steering wheel. He’s an engineer. He doesn’t look into the camera and strays away sometimes. He’s a thinker, a wanderer.
Rushing through the pages, it was apparent that there was a baby was in most of the pictures. I didn’t know who it was nor had any clue why it kept chewing on its toes. It was a fat baby that was able to wear a denim jacket before it was cool. Who was this baby?
It sat around. It was carried. It was fed. It was carried by other people. It was just a baby.
As I flipped further through the pages, the man and the woman began to look older. They didn’t hold hands like on the first page. They held the boy, the girl, and the baby.
It was as if each and every photo connected the family, but disconnected their own individual stories. As for the baby, its story stayed the same. It cried, smiled, and cried some more.
I skipped to the last page to see the end. There was no sign of the family except for the man. The woman’s face was not to be seen. The boy and the girl faces were blurred. The baby was no longer in the pictures.
When I closed the book, there was no noise. Not even a crinkle. Just the squeaking of the chair as I slouched down into a ball.
My head felt like a pretzel breaking. And I let out a weep. My cravings for sweets went away.
It wasn’t only until this summer that I decided to revisit it with adult eyes. And through it, the reason why I had left it alone all of these years still puzzles me. Sometimes I long for the days where it was simple. Other times I am glad to let the leftover pieces float around and be at my reach whenever I am ready to piece something together.
But I always feel anxious to open this particular photo album. I look around to find pictures that I have no recollection of. It’s almost like being an amnesiac. The scary feeling to know that at one point I was just a tiny little being, and now, I am a functional and flawed individual. The weird void that I did not get to experience or remember what may or may have been the some of the sweetest moments in my life.