Before moving from New York in 1999 I gave away everything I didn’t to bring with me (winter clothes, old pornography) and shipped everything I would need in Los Angeles (records, record player, t-shirts). There were a few things that I didn’t fit either categories, they were things I didn’t want to get rid of but didn’t have room to bring with me (TV, some books and photo albums etc…). Luckily I had a place to store the things I wanted to come back for. Since I was moving to LA to live with my girlfriend, I could leave my extra stuff at her parents house. Sounds perfect right? Well it would be if that girlfriend and I didn’t split up, but we did. Since that girl and I broke up eight years ago we have both met other people who were better suited for us and married them, life has gone on beautifully but my stuff was still sitting in my ex girlfriend’s parents basement about three blocks from where I went to high school.
Honestly there was only one thing I was concerned about, the photos. Several years ago my mother put all of our family photos in a storage center that was destroyed by a flood, this meant there was only one photographic record of my childhood. Over the years I have wanted to get it back but every time I went back to New York I left without going to get the pictures, since I knew it was safe I didn’t worry about it too much. A few months ago I heard from my ex who told me that she asked her mother to send it to me, after a few reminders she did and when I got home from work I found an album of photos I hadn’t seen in nearly ten years. Pictures like this one of my father and I from 1976:
As I flipped through the album I realized that it only has pictures of me and it covered my entire life from birth to age 14. By the time I was 14 our family had seen a lot of difficult times but we survived. However, the next year was very tough for me. We had somehow slid down the socio-economic ladder farther than even we had been before and my teenage angst filled self reacted poorly to the downturn. We had moved from my hometown to another nearby neighborhood and I wasn’t adjusting well. Quite frankly I was tired of living in crappy apartments that were always right beside train tracks or highways, I was tired of caring for my younger siblings all the time and I hated the school I had to go to. I acted out until it was strongly suggested that I find another school to go to. With things not going well at school or at home it was decided that I’d be better off at another school. My mother and I had always been close so it was a tough decision for everyone but I decided to go stay with my father, as hard as it might of been on me it was probably harder on my mother who felt like she had let me down.
Three months later, at Christmas 1989. we gathered at my moms as a family again and I felt like a stranger. The rest of my family was getting ready to try their luck in a new state and my mother asked me if I wanted to go. As much as I wanted to say yes I couldn’t, while my father had his faults it was slightly more stable and I had settled in to my new routine. While we didn’t exchange many gifts my mother gave me that photo album as a present. She had pulled the best photos from years worth of pictures and put them together for me. As we flipped through the album together I felt less like a stranger and more like the kid in the pictures. We stopped on one of the two of us, taken years before. In the picture she’s picked me up and I’m smiling like there’s no where else I want to be. She put her hand over the picture and said:
“We used to laught a lot more didn’t we.”
I didn’t say anything back because she was really saying was “we don’t laugh like that anymore” and I couldn’t bring myself to tell her it was true. At the end of the day I took the album back to my father’s house, it then followed me to my first apartment before being put away for safekeeping. Today when it turned up at my house I realized that the heartaches of those days are a lifetime ago. Things did get better and we did laugh all over again. Some things about the past can stay in the there.