A lovely, nosy friend of mine told me yesterday that she loved Post (traumatic stress) Syndrome but felt a little let down that she never found out, what was in my two surprise parcels. Some questions that are asked deserve answers and the answer to this one is, hours of escapism and a journey into the past.
As a free-lance writer I do reviews every now and then and for some reason a lovely, small Irish publishing house mailed me a book to read, unprompted and happily received. A rainy afternoon in the near future (in Dublin they are always near) is already saved.
The smaller package was the bigger surprise, filled with something I never expected to own, yet I was thrilled to have. My aunt who lives up North sent me some old black and white photos of my father and his family, ones I have never seen before. As they fluttered out of the padded envelope my eyes grew wide, my heart made a tiny quiver and a little tear appeared in the corner of my eye to enjoy the view. My father died quite suddenly last year and as my parents have been divorced since I was ten I do not know very much about him growing up in Northern Ireland. The photos show a side of my family tree that I have yet to discover, tickets into the past for a trip I never thought I’d take.
I have always thought that my father in his twenties had a striking resemblance to Harold Lloyd (a black and white comic actor) and the new photo evidence only supports this. But the two photos that caught my eye are of my grandmother and great grandmother. One is from the 1930’s the other from the 1950’s. What I find so interesting is that they are wearing such similar clothes (a long, six buttoned, knee-length coat with one large rever) and holding themselves in such a similar way. Hands by their side, face on to the camera, straight back and a small fixed smile. And an another odd similarity is that the men by their sides are not their husbands. Labeled as uncle and great-uncle on the back of the photo I can only presume that these more casual looking men (one is wearing flamboyantly patterned socks and knickerbockers) are their brothers, as both women were widowed early.
So, as I wander down a memory-lane that should be mine but is new to me, I can’t help but think about all the memories I keep in boxes: photos, clippings and keepsakes all jumbled up together and only important to me. We all know how pictures, sounds and even smells trigger thoughts of special times, places and people from our pasts and we need these prompts to keep our memories alive, form a puzzle of our history into its very own unique picture. So while adding these new, old photos into the kaleidoscope of my life, I am grateful for this unexpected present of the past that I’ll even enjoy in the future.