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Tempest Fugit

By Maggie Turner


January 8, 2000

Tempest Fugit

Once started, rummaging through old photos can take over your life. I realize that my cardboard treasure box has not fared well in its corner of the basement closet. A wet spring several years ago left the basement damp and wet. Although the treasure box was not touched by water, the dampness has left mildew on some of the ledgers and plastic negative sleeves. I wander through the past with a damp cloth in my hand, wiping away the insults of time as I go. Luckily, I have found no serious damage thus far. I plan to purchase several large plastic storage containers to store my treasures in, after they are thoroughly dry.

When I was a little girl, my Grandmother kept a Photo Album just for me. In it, she kept pictures of me as a baby and as a little girl. My Aunts populate the pages, smiling. My Grandmother stares from pictures, looking intense and stern to the outside world. The intensity was love; the sternness was strength of character. My Grandpa always had a twinkle in the corner of his eye, a smile just under the surface of his gaze. All the images here are a part of me, a part that seldom comes to conscious awareness.

 

Photo Album and Envelope with my hair.I had not realized that "The Teenager" had not seen the pictures in this Photo Album since she was a few years old. She does not remember. I stood behind her as she studied the pictures, as she became aware that I too had been a child. She delighted in knowing that my Grandpa had still been alive when she was born; that he had held her in his arms; that there is a picture of the two of them enjoying each other's company. He died when she was 6 months old. I answered the questions, "Who is that?" and "How old were you then?" I had been cooking dinner when she discovered the Album; I ran between kitchen and living room, back and forth, finally forgetting dinner altogether until the smell of burning onions reached my nose. At that point I abandoned meal preparation entirely and succumbed to the lure of blending the past with the future.

In the Album is a small envelope, the date is neatly and carefully written; I would have been 21 months old at that time. "The Teenager" lifts the flap and peeks at the contents. In the small envelope are strands of very fine, very blond hair, from my first haircut. She is amazed at how blond the hair is, at how dark the color of my hair has become. I do not remember the way my hair looked then; I do remember how it felt when I touched it, how easily it tangled, how the tines of the comb pulled and tugged, and hurt. I can remember when my daughter's hair was fine and blond, how it felt under my fingers as I stroked her head. Perhaps my fingers again will run through fine blond hair on a busy little head. Time will tell.


 

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