December 17, 2007

Old photos

Do you ever look at old photos and stare into the faces of each person in the photo, and wonder where all the time has gone? Do you ever look at some of those old photos and gasp at how some of the people in them are now dead? Did you ever look at old photos of New York and wonder what life was like back then, when men would nod and tip their hats in greeting to women on the street?

Sometimes it just takes a color of the sky, or a smell on the wind, for a particular memory to flash for me. Sometimes I would drive onto the Cross County and as the road would curve, I would be reminded of a moment in time when I was around 5 years old when I was in the back seat of my parents old Pontiac, on the way to see an aunt and uncle. That's all I remember, was that back seat and the tall, full trees when I looked out the window, tiny me that I was then. They are probably the same trees I see today when I drive that same route, only 45 years taller and broader and fuller.

Sometimes, I think about my mom and dad, how they used to live together in the home that now only houses my widowed mom, engulfed in loneliness. Did she ever think that day would come when she would sit and cry alone in her home 15 years ago when she moved in?

Then I think of all of our legacy and purpose in life. What is our purpose here? We are born, we grow up, we marry, we have children, our children grow, we watch our grandkids grow, then we die. To what end? The fact is that for some of us who had galliant dreams of loving husbands, big houses, five or six kids, a bungalow - well, it never happened. For some of us, the dreams of our childhood never came to fruition. What happens when the children we give birth to grow into adult monsters? What happens when our children dissappoint us? We mourn our losses even though there has been no funeral. We are mourning our dreams. Our broken dreams.

Sometimes I will look at my mother's house and wonder who lived there before she and my dad moved in. I already remember - it was another widow. Then I remember the widow who lived across the street from my parents home when my parents first moved into their house. Now that widow, too, has since passed away.

And one day, my tiny, sad, lonely beloved mother will also die. And I will be heartbroken again and I will become an orphan. In one moment, I already know this, that at the moment of my mother's death, 50 years will have passed before my eyes. I will see myself as a little girl playing in our apartment, and my mom watching me while she was on the phone, smoking a cigarette, drinking her coffee, talking to her best friend. Who would have ever thought that 50 years would fly by, and I would be where I am, thinking about that almost perfect day when life was gentler, softer, quieter, and devoid of any memories that would break my heart 50 years later.

Imagine getting this Christmas postcard now, postmarked 1914...