What do you do when it’s 100 degrees outside and you’re in the middle of a pandemic?
For me, it’s clean out another drawer or sort through another box. I inherited all of my sister’s belongings three years ago when she moved here from Iowa, and today, while packing up a daughter’s stuff, a daughter who used the same bedroom before college and before Sis slept in for a year, I found a manila envelope and a photo album. I thought they were mine, so I set them aside to sort through while watching mindless TV.
It turns out they weren’t mine. it was Sis’s stuff, a lifetime of memories and photographs, an empty album waiting for the photos to be arranged inside. So I did that.
I found photos I’d never seen before, a really good one of me and my oldest. I was supposed to board a plane today to attend her wedding on the East coast.
The pandemic changed all of that.
I found another photograph of most of my sibs. My younger sister is cut off, even though I can see her mouth and a meatball on her fork. There’s Dad (he’s been gone for 32 years), trying to eat, but younger brother #1 has put his elbow on Dad’s shoulder. Little brother is mid-bite. Older Sis is smiling about something. Only brother #1 and I are looking at the camera held by Mom. We look happy.
That round red Formica table was our place to gather. It barely fit seven people, but we squeezed in and had discussions about everything there. Look at the plates! My little brother is still eating off a plastic toddler plate, and he’s not a toddler anymore.
It must be summer because four of us are drinking iced tea. The boys have milk. My hair is short, so that means I am in college or just graduated. We seem to be eating soup or stew. What is the grated parmesan cheese for? There’s a stick of margarine on a plate and two kinds of salad dressing.
I had a dream last night that took place in that childhood home. I didn’t see this photo until today, so it did not trigger my dream. Why are my dreams still happening at 4018 69th Street?
Both of my brothers grew up to be huge men, like Dad. I am the tallest sister. I blame it on all the milk I drank. It’s too bad Mom and the other half of my younger sister’s face aren’t in the photo, too.
My kids are grown up and gone. Their dad ate very few meals with us. I made a point to have a family dinner every night, even though he was missing. It was the best time to find out what was going on in the kids’ lives. We had some good laughs, too, although I never captured it in a photo. We didn’t have cell phone s in our pockets yet.
My nuclear family while I was growing up also had some bad times around that table, nothing I will discuss here. It’s funny how one little photo, locked away in a manila envelope for all these years, can trigger so many memories.